The University of Wisconsin Press

Political Theory / Rhetoric / Environment / Public Policy

The Environmental Promise of Democratic Deliberation
Adolf G. Gundersen

"Not in my back yard!"

Confronted with fallout from the environmental crisis, the average citizen tends to go this far and no further. But given half a chance and a bit of information, ordinary citizens are quite capable of saying—and doing—much more, as Adolf Gundersen persuasively demonstrates in this timely book. As interesting for its firsthand view of the democratic process as for its vision of environmental progress, The Environmental Promise of Deliberative Democracy offers hope for a heightened public engagement with the most pressing issue of our day.

Gundersen states at the outset that most environmentalists do their cause a disservice by casting it in moral rather than political terms. The environmental crisis is a political crisis, he argues, and to address it, we must start thinking in clearer, more collective ways about environmental problems and solutions. To that end, he proposes an expansion of citizen deliberation, and suggests a practical plan for realizing this ideal at the very heart of our political system.

Though "deliberation" has become a rallying cry among political theorists, few have explicitly analyzed the concept itself, let alone the traditional assumption that public deliberation must take place in public. Gundersen examines both. He advances a new model of public deliberation that represents a real, and realistic, alternative to the conventional ones. He then goes on to apply this model to environmental issues. In a series of interviews with a cross-section of 46 citizens, Gundersen shows us how the deliberative process can work-and, specifically, how it can work on abstract and concrete environmental problems. These interviews, quoted extensively in the book, support Gundersen's contention that we can learn to think more intelligently, and collectively, about an issue that demands but so often confounds collective action.

Adolf G. Gundersen is assistant professor of political science at Texas A&M University.

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Gundersen's book is green with the title and author in black and white

April 1995
LC: 94-036212 HC
288 pp.   6 x 9   7 figures

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Paper $19.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-14484-5
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The cloth edition, ISBN 0-299-14480-1 is out of print

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