The book is divided into four sections: The first section focuses on how certain environmental problems can only be solved through active government effort to implement policies that effectively take science and politics into account. This section introduces readers to foundational concepts, including the steps in the US federal environmental policy-making process, and offers an action-oriented analysis of how environmental policy gets implemented and how practitioners can use comparative analysis of public policy in environmental problem-solving. It concludes with questions about the possibility of a unified theory of environmental policy making. The section empowers readers to develop, through exercises and videos, a solid framework to shape an action plan to solve specific environmental problems.
The next section focuses on formulating a sound philosophical basis for taking action in environmental problem solving situations. This includes a discussion of several ethical frameworks that practitioners can use to underpin the actions they propose. This section begins with a general overview of environmental ethics, and then moves on to a discussion of utilitarianism versus intrinsic value, deep green approaches to environmental problem-solving, the debate over sustainability versus economic growth, and how science and indigenous knowledge can be applied in a wide range of environmental problem-solving situations. The section, through exercises and videos, empowers readers to take a stand on these debates, drawing on practical cases with worked examples.
The penultimate section helps environmental practitioners understand how to use various analytical tools. It includes a quick survey of traditional and non-traditional evaluation tools, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each tool, focusing on environmental impact assessment, cost benefit analysis, ecosystem services analysis, risk assessment, simulation and modeling, and scenario planning. The section, through interactive exercises and videos, empowers readers to practice multi-party environmental problem-solving, and to identify the power of each tool to enhance environmental problem-solving, developing the judgment to enumerate strengths and weaknesses as they see them playing out in practice.
The concluding section is a survey of the theory and practice behind mobilizing support for particular problem-solving ideas. It includes discussions of democratic decision-making and environmental problem solving, how the public can be brought in as a partner, methods of collaborative decision-making, the ideas of consensus building, and how politics and power sway collective action efforts.