My daughter’s taking a class in environmental management and I’ve learned two important things from her. First, Richard Nixon’s looking better and better: he signed into law the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970.

One of the most important demands of this law is that Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be produced. As Rachel points out, creating these big reports is a lot of work. (Students are very much aware of the work involved writing reports, but I’m sure she doesn’t realize the extraordinary resources that go into writing government reports.) Just calling for an EIS can slow down or derail projects that would damage the environment.

Naturally, today’s US government considers NEPA too restrictive, tough on business. I was fascinated to learn that any citizen can contact the government and ask for a copy of an EIS. Rachel was even given the choice of hard copy or CD/ROM. I think it’s great to have students make personal contact with a person in Washington DC, so they realize that the government consists of real people sitting at desks, answering the phone, doing their jobs.

I’ve also discovered that the websites that go with textbooks have some interesting features. Some of the links and resources are pretty weak–you could do much better on Google–but there are some good case studies and high-tech mapping tools. I was startled to read that the snow goose, as well as the Canadian goose, is increasing rapidly. The snow goose has “a devastating effect on the fragile tundra ecosystem in the far north where they breed and raise their young.”

For a free home environmental studies lesson, take a look at the Environmental Science site from McGraw-Hill.