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