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Panelists Discuss Collaborating on an Environmental Agenda At Davdison Environmental Conference

October 1, 2000
CONTACT: Bill Giduz

by Emily Drew '04
If North Carolina's rivers were cleaned, the state would experience a $42 million per year increase in tourism. Dr. Dan McLawhorn, a 1970 Davidson alumnus, cited this fact as one of many incentives that should inspire immediate action on environmental issues. He was one of three panelists to speak at the Dean Rusk Program's environmental talks that continued on September 25 in Chambers' Gallery. The panel discussion, "The End of Enforcement? Collaborating on an Environmental Agenda," publicized government possibilities and realizations in environmental collaboration.
Senior student Jill Newmyer, president of the Environmental Action Coalition, introduces panelists.

Ken Menkhaus, associate professor of political science at Davidson, moderated the event. Jill Newmyer, president of Davidson College's Environmental Action Coalition, introduced the panelists who represented national, state, and local concerns.

Dr. Linda Rimer, the liaison between the Carolinas and the U.S. EPA, spoke first. She discussed the EPA's accomplishments, needs, and goals. She said that the EPA was responsible for 30 years of environmental protection efforts, and stated, "The environment has improved."

She said EPA efforts have saved dead bodies of water, reduced urban air pollution, and banned harmful pesticides. Rimer outlined current EPA plans like the Excellence and Leadership Program and the National Environmental Performance Track. These programs offer incentive to businesses for fully implementing environmental management systems. Recognizing and rewarding restorative behavior promotes environmental awareness among companies, and reduces the need for enforcement. Rimer stressed the need for the EPA to balance enforcement with compliance assurance. "We do believe in collaboration, but it doesn't come to us naturally," said Rimer on behalf of the EPA.
Dan McLawhorn, a 1970 Davidson graduate who now serves as General Counsel of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

McLawhorn followed Dr. Rimer by acknowledging the influence of the EPA in state affairs. McLawhorn works for North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and deals with the EPA frequently because the national organization examines state laws and regulations. "In this state we have always found flexibility important," said McLawhorn.

He pointed out that the state has improved its environment, in part through the power of public education. For example, after weather channels began including ozone readings, air pollution became the #1 public environmental issue in North Carolina. Now the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources is working on final air pollution regulations. "We want excellence," said McLawhorn. Promoting public awareness leads to better funding for environmental programs as well as changes in public demands.

McLawhorn also spoke of foreign triumphs in environmental policy. Today the Netherlands and New Zealand are regarded as outstanding examples of collaboration between varied organizations to produce a common goal.

The third commentator, Vicki Taylor of the Catawba River Keeper Program, further stressed the need to look ahead in environmental policy and to involve citizens. "We need to create a long-range vision that people will fall in love with," she said.
Panelists (l-r) Menkhaus, Taylor, McLawhorn, and Rimer.

Taylor proposed advertising campaigns that would inspire people to fulfill the possibilities available in environmental reform. With powerful assets like strong organizations, enforced laws, government agendas, and presidential campaigns, environment activists should use all their potential to help the environment, explained Taylor. "We should get on our bike because biking is fun, not because of the threat of carbon dioxide."

Menkhaus then took the floor, and spoke on the need for collaboration among government authorities, businesses, non-profits, and scientists.

After a brief audience question session, Taylor left the audience with a final challenge, "Wake up to where we have relaxed, and ask how good could we make it."

For further details, visit the EPA's web-site at www.epa.gov/performancetrack.com.

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