Clear Consensus, Ambiguous Commitment

Americans from every demographic, socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic category identify themselves as concerned about the environment, and most say that they have personally taken steps to reduce pollution or improve environmental quality in some way. One of the most salient cultural and social signatures of the contemporary era in the United States, and throughout much of the world, has been the diffusion of a desire to protect, preserve, and restore features of the natural environment to a greater degree than current practices and policies do. These environmental concerns are not only widely shared, they have been extended to become a wide policy agenda. No longer confined to preserving national parks or eliminating the most noxious forms of smog and the most obvious kinds of water pollution, the environmental agenda has expanded to embrace the preservation of open spaces, critical habitats, wetlands, tropical rain forests, and other natural areas; the reduction of all forms of harmful pollution and emissions; and the reformation of personal habits of consumption and corporate practices of production that underlie the supply and demand of products that directly or indirectly harm the environment. Environmental implications are everywhere and they have seeped into everyone’s consciousness.