Prior to the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring on September 27, 1962, the world did not seem to pay close attention to environmental issues, but after the serialization of the book in the New Yorker that summer and Carson’s appearance on ‘CBS Reports’ while clearly dying from the effects of pesticides, the environmental movement was born and gained tremendous momentum during the 1960’s and 1970’s (Griswold, 2012). Most people on the planet firmly believed in what is referred to as the concept of the dominant social paradigm, which is comprised of the values, beliefs, ideas, behaviors, and institutions that affect how the world is perceived, in addition to how it is responded to. Obviously, this kind of paradigm is not something that occurs overnight, but rather happens from a society’s collective experience and acquired knowledge (Milbraith, 2004).
In the case of the environment, the dominant social paradigm (DSP) before the environmental movement was one where the world would always provide enough resources for human consumption with that consumption never having to be modified or altered in any form. The difficulty with a DSP is that it takes just as long for a society or various societies to shed this viewpoint as it becomes so embedded in their way of life, it takes a series of events to dislodge it from their mind. With environmental concerns, this shifting from the DSP to say, ecologically sound practices such as recycling, has shown to be just as difficult as any paradigm because it is a part of the economy, politics and other components of the fabrics of developed world cultures. Although great strides have been made in this regard, there is obviously still much more work to do because of global warming and globalization (Kilbourne and Polansky, 2005).
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In 1978, Riley Dunlap and William R. Catton, Jr., promoted a new theory they entitled the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP). The concept takes into account that
residents on this planet require other organisms, ecological structures, etc. to exist even though they are different from the planet’s other denizens by the fact they are innovative and can advance technologically. Therefore, since this world does have limits on what kinds of resources it can supply, this would place constraints on what human beings can or cannot accomplish. Since the introduction of the NEP, both men and other colleagues have continually expanded upon their research and have included various social, economic and political factors in the concept. Therefore the DSP and NEP are similar only in they are both paradigms and how they were developed. What each espouses is the exact opposite of one another (Kilbourne and Polanski, 2005).
The NEP is probably the more popular of the two paradigms at this juncture in time, although interest in the environment has ebbed and flowed since the 1960’s. Examples of this are recycling programs, the use of alternative power sources such as the sun and wind, and even of the existence of an organization such as Environmental Protection Agency. This government agency’s focus is to implement regulations to control, eradicate and diminish environmental damage. There have also been trends incorporated by businesses to purchase recycled products and the use of electric cars.
In regards to the issue of legal standing when it applies to environmental law, it has a long history in the court system, with its backbone being the separation of powers among the Federal branches of government (Benzoni, 2008). The main issue with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of standing for environmental law means a species or environmental organism that has suffered an injury cannot bring their own case into court or have a citizen of the
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United States act on their behalf. In order for a cause of action to be valid, a person or group of people must illustrate to the court that they or someone else they know has suffered an
injury by the same thing, circumstance, or activity that may have affected an animal, plant or ecosystem. This practice can be quite a challenge for those in the field of environmental law, because it severely limits potential causes of action where injuries or damage, have indeed occurred (Benzoni, 2008).
- Benzoni, Franciso. (2008). Environmental Standing: Who Determines the Value of
Other Life? Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum. Volume 18:347, 344-370.
- Griswold, Eliza. (2012). How Silent Spring Ignited the Environmental Movement. The
New York Times. MM36.
- Kilbourne and Polansky. (2005) Environmental Attitudes and Their Relation To The
Dominant Social Paradigm Among University Students in New Zealand and Australia. Australian Marketing Journal 13 (2), 37-48.
- Milbraith, Lester. (2004) Environmentalists: Vanguard For A New Society. SUNY Press. 1984, 18-32.