Using Social Ecology to Meet the Productive Harmony Intent of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 2001

(Hastings West-Northwest Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, Volume 7, Issue 3, Spring, 2001)

Kevin Preister, James A. Kent

Abstract: In this paper, we explore the concept of productive harmony, contained in Section 101 of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)1 , showing how the term can be conceived and operationalized in ways not available when NEPA was passed in 1970. We make the case that Section 101 contains the policy intent of the law that has been ignored or underemphasized since the law’s inception. By re-invigorating the concept of productive harmony from Section 101, using the science of social ecology, many of the shortcomings of NEPA pointed out by its critics, legal professionals and practitioners can be addressed. We share our experience about what has gone wrong in the implementation process, and show the theoretical development and practical success of which we have been a part. The paper closes with a discussion showing how questions of productive harmony can turn information gathering and data analysis into knowledge and wisdom so that the policy intent of NEPA calling for integration can be met. We argue that projects using this productive harmony approach are capable of fostering community, landscape, and ecosystem health in degrees unprecedented in the past thirty years of NEPA implementation.