Many key environmental decisions are made at the local level by city councils, planning committees, and port commissions. This course explores the intersection of science, economics, and public engagement in local environmental policy. How do policymakers recognize the conflicting interests of multiple stakeholders in their decision-making process? How do they incorporate scientific models—especially those that involve conflicting evidence or uncertain predictions—into their decisions? How can interested citizens and professionals most effectively influence environmental policy? How can local environmental challenges become opportunities that strengthen communities and economies? We will examine such questions through examples in Thurston County:
Scientists predict that by 2050 Olympia will flood over 100 times per year as the result of sea-level rise. How do these climate change models become the foundation for city planning and disaster response? How are the City of Olympia, the Port of Olympia, and LOTT working together to respond to this challenge? What are challenges and opportunities of such interagency collaboration with the public?
Capitol Lake is unhealthy. Restoring the natural river flow through dam removal would improve water quality in Capitol and Budd Inlet. But releasing the built-up sediment would impact boating and shipping. How do scientists predict these likely consequences? How should our community evaluate and act on the proposal to remove the dam and restore the Deschutes Estuary? How are policymakers proceeding?
Carbon reduction proposals have been made by citizens and elected officials. What are the costs and benefits of various carbon reduction strategies? Which have been adopted, and what goals remain to be achieved?
These case studies and questions—along with others—will be explored through reading, discussion, workshops, and visits from community experts. Each student will also undertake a focused research project on a local environmental issue.
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