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Environmental protection in the information age

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Information Age technologies promise to transform our approach to environmental protection. The existing models of pollution control and natural resource management -- (1) property rights utilizing tort and contract law, (2) command and control regulation, (3) economic-incentive-based regulation, (4) social context, and (5) the default option of doing nothing – all promise to be transformed by the application of computers and modern telecommunications technologies to environmental problems. In addition to enabling environmental protection models to function more effectively, greater access to information should help to: (1) eliminate waste; (2) ease the difficulty of divergent environmental values; and (3) facilitate an approach to environmental protection that incorporates justice and fairness more fully. Given the importance of information to finding solutions to environmental problems, strategies must be implemented to lure or drive information into the environmental rights marketplace, the regulatory process and the hands of consumers. Although the Information Age may make more information available at less expense, this does not guarantee that the information will be translated into usable knowledge. A commitment must be made to processing the information so that it does not overwhelm and undermine environmental decision-making processes. But despite challenges, the Information Age is full of promise for the environmental realm.

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