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Spring 1999

Heal the World
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polluting alternatives that can be implemented in a cost-effective manner. And we're actively doing that."

Leaders in the government agencies cited in the wastewater report had their own complaints. "We believe we were unfairly characterized as dragging our feet on secondary treatment," says Jim Stahl, assistant chief engineer and assistant general manager at the L.A. County Sanitation Districts. "We had laid out very good scientific and engineering principles for why we thought it was necessary to continue with the type of treatment we had, which we felt was an environmentally sound, cost-effective system that was doing the job." John Cross, assistant director of the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, argues that recognition should have been given to improvements at the Hyperion plant since 1989, when the city began meeting full secondary treatment standards.

But neither Stahl nor Cross has any problem with the report card concept; indeed, Cross' main complaint is that his agency wasn't given the opportunity to review and comment on the report prior to publication. Each of the authors of the 1998 Report Card are soliciting readers' comments, which will be summarized in the next report.

The 1999 Southern California Environmental Report Card is being timed for release at the annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), which will be hosted and sponsored by UCLA Sept. 16-19. It will be the first time that SEJ, which includes environmental reporters from the country's major print and broadcast outlets, will hold its national meeting on the West Coast.

Environmental reporters and IoE faculty have a common goal, observes SEJ executive director Beth Parke: a desire to advance public understanding about issues so complex that even environmental reporters often have difficulty grasping them. "We're in an era in which it's extremely important for scientists to be public communicators," says Parke. "That's why an institutional effort such as we're seeing at UCLA is helpful."

Ambrose believes the Southern California Environmental Report Card can be particularly useful in offering a broader perspective than event-focused news coverage typically provides. "You always read about this or that oil spill in wetlands, but rarely do you see articles about the status of wetlands generally," he says.

In its effort to provide such perspective, the inaugural Report Card lays down the gauntlet, arguing: "While human civilization has made extraordinary social and technological strides in the past century, too often the environment has been sacrificed for profit or convenience. Accordingly, although such progress has improved the quality of life for some, it has resulted in a serious deterioration of the planet's water, land and air resources, thus jeopardizing the future quality of life for all."

IoE members believe one of the keys to fighting environmental deterioration is to help crystallize the issues for the citizenry. "When confronted with reasonably accessible facts, people are very ready to pitch in and try to make things better," says IoE member Richard Berk, a professor of sociology and statistics. Berk has studied public opinion in various areas of environmental policy and found, contrary to conventional wisdom, that most people are willing to make sacrifices on behalf of a cleaner environment. Winer agrees: "You don't hear people saying they won't pay $200 in order to have a catalytic converter on a $30,000 automobile (as was predicted). A few years back, we heard predictions that recycling wouldn't be supported, and

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