Obstacles to Environmental Progress

A U.S. perspective

Peter C. Schulze

ISBN: 9781800082076

Publication: August 22, 2022

This title has not yet been published. Please bookmark this page and come back on the publication date when it will be freely available to download.

Why, when so many people understand the severity of environmental problems, is progress so slow and sustainability such a distant goal? What gets in the way? Perhaps you have immediately thought of several barriers. In Obstacles to Environmental Progress, Peter Schulze identifies 18 practical obstacles that routinely and predictably hinder U.S. progress on existing environmental problems. The obstacles apply to problems small and large and, in most cases, regardless of whether an issue is controversial. Though the book focuses on the U.S., most of the obstacles pertain elsewhere as well.

The obstacles fall into three categories: scientific challenges to anticipating and detecting problems; political and economic factors that interfere with responding; and obstacles to effective responses. While all the obstacles are predictable and common, they have not been systematically studied as related phenomena, perhaps because they span a wide range of academic disciplines. In practice, they often arise as surprises that are then addressed in an ad hoc manner. Might they be better understood and thus more readily anticipated and overcome or avoided?

The book seeks to hasten environmental progress by forewarning and thus forearming those who are striving or will soon be striving for environmental progress, and by drawing scholarly attention to the obstacles as a set of related phenomena to systematically understand and more quickly overcome.  

Peter Schulze is Professor of Biology and Environmental Science and Center for Environmental Studies Director at Austin College, Texas.

List of figures
List of tables
List of abbreviations

1 Introduction

PART I Obstacles to detecting and understanding environmental problems

2 No one on watch

3 Detection challenges

4 Limits on experiments

5 Probabilistic reasoning

6 Inference and extrapolation

7 Scientific errors

PART II Obstacles to responding to environmental problems

8 Exaggerated impressions of scientific uncertainty

9 One-sided perspectives on liberty

10 Market freedom

11 Paying for protection

12 Perceived lack of urgency

13 Flawed democracy

14 An endless uphill battle

PART III Obstacles to effective responses

15 Devising effective responses

16 Compromises that doom responses

17 Mismatched or overlapping authority

18 Breakdown in policy implementation

19 Conflicts with other societal objectives

20 Recapitulation, reasons for optimism, and recommendations

Appendix: the six anti-environmental biases of cost-benefit analysis


‘I have never come across another book that gives students such an accessible and helpful guide to the broad scope of the challenges facing an environmentally sound and sustainable future.’ – Al Wurth, Lehigh University

‘We've long needed something like this: a gazetteer for answering the endless series of objections and overcoming the repetitive obstacles that stand between us and the environmental progress we urgently require.’ – Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and founder of and Third Act

Format: Open Access PDF

363 Pages

36 colour illustrations

Copyright: © 2022

ISBN: 9781800082076

Publication: August 22, 2022

Scroll to top