SEHN

Visionary Science, Ethics, Law and Action in the Public Interest

Essays

  • The Power of Precaution
    July 18, 2006
    Carolyn Raffensperger with Bioneers editor-at-large Kim Ridley
    July 18, 2006
  • Precaution and Democracy: A Blueprint for a Healthy World
    May, 2006
    By Nancy J. Myers and Carolyn Raffensperger
    Excerpted from “Precautionary Tools for Reshaping Environmental Policy”

    The Precautionary Principle: Four Basic Questions and Empowerment Tools

  • What A Precautionary Approach Can Do For Us
    March 31, 2006
    By Peter Montague
    Editor, Rachel’s Precaution Reporter

    Six Reasons Why We Need Precaution
    The precautionary principle is not a silver bullet for solving environmental, economic, or social problems. Organized grass-roots action in local communities is still the only reliable engine for civic improvement and social change. However, the precautionary principle can serve as a guide for that community-based activism, and it can provide a framework for an integrated, consistent approach to environmental, economic, and social problems. (excerpt)

  • Precaution and Innovation
    2004
    By Carolyn Raffensperger
    A PowerPoint presentation to legislators and staff of the NY State Assembly.
  • Good Science vs. the Common Good
    January 19, 2004
    By Janet Jacobson
    Op-ed in Cavalier County Republican
  • New Approaches To Safeguarding The Earth
    August 4, 2003
    By Jared Blumenfeld, director, San Francisco Department of the Environment.
    An environmental version of the Hippocratic oath.
  • San Francisco Passes New Environmental Ordinance
    July 31, 2003
    San Francisco is the first city in the nation to adopt the Precautionary Principle.
  • Contempt For Small Places
    June 2003
    By Wendell Berry, the author of “The Unsettling of America”
    Poet, novelist, and essayist, Wendell Berry farms in Kentucky and is a member of the Land Institute’s Prairie Writers Circle, Salina, Kansas.
  • The Precautionary Principle and the City and County of San Francisco.
    March 2003
    A white paper. Reprinted with permission from the City of San Francisco, Dept. of the Environment.
  • A Response To Issues And Values Related To Genetically Modified Organisms
    March 2003
    A Statement from the Rural Life Committee of the North Dakota Conference of Churches.
  • The Precautionary Principle Puts Values First
    June 2002
    By Nancy Myers, Science and Environmental Health Network.
    Reprinted with Permission from the Bulletin of Science, Technology, & Society, Vol. 22, No. 3, June 2002, 210-219. Copyright 2002 Sage Publications.
  • Wolves and Precaution: The Precautionary Principle and Children’s Environmental Health
    May 8, 2002
    By Carolyn Raffensperger, Science and Environmental Health Network.
    Keynote address to the Washington State Environmental Health Association’s 57th Annual Educational Conference, Olympia, WA
    N.B. The link initiates an MS Word 2000 download.
  • A Canadian Perspective on the Precautionary Approach/Principle
    March 28, 2002
    By Stuart Lee and Katherine Barrett.
    Comments in response to the Canadian goverment’s Discussion Document on the Precautionary Principle/Approach.
  • Beyond Democratization of Risk Assessment: An Alternative to Risk Assessment
    December 12, 2001
    By Mary H. O’Brien
    Presented to the Society for Risk Analysis, New England Chapter. Boston, MA
  • The Importance of the Precautionary Principle
    December 9, 2001
    By Michael Pollan
    “For the last several decades, American society has been guided by the ”risk analysis” model, which assesses new technologies by trying to calculate the mathematical likelihood that they will harm the public. There are other ways, however, to think about this problem. Indeed, a rival idea from Europe, the ”precautionary principle,” has just begun making inroads in America.” – excerpt
  • Technology: Who Chooses? A Precaution Primer
    Fall 2001
    An article reprinted from Yes Magazine by Nancy Myers and Carolyn
    Download the article in Rich Text Format.
  • The Precautionary Principle: Revisioning Iowa’s Environmental Health
    September 7, 2001
    A talk given by Carolyn Raffensperger to The Iowa Environmental Council.
    Download the talk in Rich Text Format.
  • In Defense of the Precautionary Principle
    September 2001
    Correspondence to Nature Biotechnology from Carolyn Raffensperger and Katherine Barrett – September 2001 Vol. 19, No. 9, pages 811-812.
    Download the correspondence in Rich Text Format.
  • Challenging the Status Quo in Ethnobotany: A New Paradigm for Publication May Protect Cultural Knowledge and Traditional Resources
    2001
    By Kelly Bannister and Katherine Barrett
    Reprinted with permission from Cultural Survival Quarterly
  • Contemplating Impulse and Acting on Navels
    February 2001
    By Mary H. O’Brien
    Keynote address given at the international conference Taking Nature Seriously: Citizens, Science, and the Environment, held at the University of Oregon, February 25-27, 2001
  • The U.S. and the Precautionary Principle: An NGO Response in the Context of the Cartagena Protocol
    December 2000
    By Nancy Myers
    In this paper we outline four considerations that will help to focus implementation of the precautionary principle in the Cartagena Protocol. In the second part we offer responses to criticisms of the precautionary principle which are often presented by U.S. officials and others who support U.S. viewpoints. Such arguments have been raised in negotiations on the Protocol, as well as in recent international trade, environment, and food safety discussions. It is important to address these criticisms directly so they do not stand in the way of either a broad precautionary approach to protecting the environment and human health or specific precautionary actions taken to implement the Protocol. – excerpt
    NB: Due to length of the paper, the link will download the paper in Rich Text Format.
  • Science, Ethics, and Changed Lives: How Did Rachel Carson Do It?
    November 2000
    Mary H. O’Brien
    Presented at “Ethics and the Precautionary Principle,” sponsored by Science and Environmental Health Network, 8-10 November 2000 Blue Mountain Center, New York.
  • The Precautionary Principle As Forecaring: Hopeful Work For The Environmental Health Movement
    By Carolyn Raffensperger
    October 2000
    Taking Back Our Food, Farms and Playgrounds: A conference on the interlocking issues of pesticide reform, environmental health, genetic engineering and corporate control of agriculture. A lecture given at the Mount Alverno Conference, Center Redwood City, California October 6-8, 2000.
  • Risk Assessment and Risk Management
    September 2000
    The purpose of this brief is to inform and educate the layperson about risk assessment as it is currently practiced, and what it purports to achieve. Government agencies develop risk assessments to make most public policy decisions relating to public health and the environment. An understanding of its components and their bases will enable citizens to undertake critical analyses of risk assessment, and understand its current misuse, as well as the dangers of today’s risk management policies. Commonly, risk assessments are used to justify hazardous practices. – excerpt
  • Debating the Precautionary Principle
    By Nancy Myers
    March 2000
    “The precautionary principle has taken center stage in a number of recent international discussions on trade, the environment, and human health. As a result, it has stirred criticism as well as interest. In these discussions and in a growing number of media reports on the principle, certain criticisms and qualifications, enumerated below, have been repeated with some frequency.” – excerpt
  • Status and Implementation of the Precautionary Principle
    March, 2000
    By Joel Tickner and Nancy Myers
    “Discussion of the role of the precautionary principle in environmental health policy has intensified in recent months, especially in the European Union and in the international arena but also in the United States and Canada. Much of this debate has been fueled by trade controversies over beef and milk containing growth hormones and over genetically modified foods. The precautionary principle dominated discussions at the recent Biosafety Protocol meeting in Montreal and was at the core of the final protocol. At last fall’s World Trade Organization Ministerial meeting in Seattle, controversy swirled around the precautionary principle. The principle has been a central element in recent discussions of international food safety standards (Codex Alimentarius).” – excerpt
  • Racing Towards the Starting Line: The Radical Nature of Precaution
    October, 1999
    By Mary O’Brien
    “Pollution is personal. Chemical pollutants are found in our breast milk and our sperm, our amniotic fluid and our fatty tissue, our blood, bone, and urine. There have been alarming increases in the incidence of certain diseases, and many of them have suspected links to environmental pollution. These diseases cannot be completely explained by other causes, and their increase mirrors the increase in toxic chemical production, use, and release. Illness is the result of a complex interaction of genetic, social and environmental factors, but we must not ignore the environmental connection. ” – excerpt
  • Pollution is Personal
    2000
    The Massachusetts Precautionary Principle Project:
    Clean Water Fund, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and Science & Environmental Health Network
    “Pollution is personal. Chemical pollutants are found in our breast milk and our sperm, our amniotic fluid and our fatty tissue, our blood, bone, and urine. There have been alarming increases in the incidence of certain diseases, and many of them have suspected links to environmental pollution. These diseases cannot be completely explained by other causes, and their increase mirrors the increase in toxic chemical production, use, and release. Illness is the result of a complex interaction of genetic, social and environmental factors, but we must not ignore the environmental connection. ” – excerpt
  • Putting Precaution into Practice
    1999
    The Massachusetts Precautionary Principle Project:
    Clean Water Fund, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and Science & Environmental Health Network
    “This briefing paper presents an overview of the Precautionary Principle and some components of a structure to implement the Principle in environmental health policy. The Precautionary Principle comes into play when there may be environmental or health damage and there is uncertainty as to whether the effect has or will occur and its potential magnitude. Precaution is about anticipating (the Precautionary Principle comes form the German Vorsorge, or foresight, principle) and preventing environmental health damage. It is about the best possible science for the best possible decisions that prevent harm to human health or the environment. The precautionary principle requires more, not less science than traditional decision-making methods. Decisions to invoke the precautionary principle involve different types of scientific knowledge from different fields. They require honesty about uncertainty, what is known, not known, and can be scientifically determined. ” – excerpt