November 2010

Solutions to Fix the Broken U.S. Senate

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By Jon H. Oberg

Is the U.S. Senate irreparably broken? Why does it seem so? What changes might restore it to a more useful and respected place in our constitutional framework? Is it time for election reforms?

It is not as if these are academic questions. The country has barely escaped an economic crisis of the first order. We may be about to slip back into a second crisis unless Congress leads us away from profound economic dangers.

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, Part Two

By Brian McMullen

In part 1, we introduced the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, discussing its background and significance. While preceding and subsequent environmental legislation tended to be specific to certain environmental mediums, such as air, soil or water, NEPA emphasized the importance of ecosystems. Section 101(a) of the act acknowledged both humanity’s impact and dependence on healthy, well-functioning ecosystems. Section 102(c) required agency administrators to prepare environmental impact statements (EISs) to document federal activities with significant ecological effects. Thus, NEPA created a national policy for the environment with both aspirational and operational elements. Section 101(a) described a new national goal to be pursued, and Section 102(c) was the means to the goal.

The Deepwater Horizon EIS

By Brian McMullen

In our first article of this series, we discussed the National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) goal of considering the environment in federal decision making. We also discussed the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) requirement as a means of achieving this goal, which related to the “First EIS” sidebar. Many NEPA scholars and practitioners view the alternatives analysis section of an EIS as the heart of NEPA. In this section of an EIS document, engineers, environmental scientists, planners, economists, sociologists, activists and administrators suggest alternate approaches to the proposed project and their anticipated impacts. It is a critical exercise in informed brainstorming. Both the scientific rigor and creativity on which these alternatives are based has much to do with the quality of the resulting document. Ultimately, the goal of the alternatives analysis section should be to challenge entrenched, institutional thinking in the agencies.

Planting Trees with Soul

By Jack Phillips

I began my journey in an unlikely place—especially for a tree hugger. The Negev region lies between the Dead Sea and Gaza, with lower Galilee to the north and the Sinai Desert to the south. The Negev is often called a desert, but Israeli ecologists call this dry and rocky habitat a maquis and liken it to the chaparral of the American southwest. Although much of the Negev has been deforested, the native flora of this region is dominated by the kinds of small, scrubby plants one might expect to find in a semi-arid plain.

Operation Migration

By Joe Duff

Despite the fact that we have all grown up in a conservation-minded society, that concept is a relatively new one. Up until the early part of the 20th century, little heed was paid to the limits of natural resources. As a consequence, even common animals like deer, ubiquitous today, were rare in the 1940s and ’50s. A chevron of Canada geese heading south for the winter was such an uncommon sight that it was worthy of reporting at the dinner table.

Immigration in Nebraska

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