What is Policy?
Webster’s Dictionary describes policy as “A definitely course or method of action selected (by Government institution, group or individual) from among alternatives and in the light of given conditions to guide and, usually, to determent present and future decisions. To put it simply the term Policy is a plan for action and it impacts our daily lives. Policy effects the air we breath the quality of the water we drink and the speed at which we drive our cars. Policy can be reactive which means its created in response to a current pressing problem. An example of a reactive policy might be coming up with a housing or shelter plan for homeless people who are living in the public spaces and can’t meet their daily needs. A policy can also be proactive, which means is a course of action designed to prevent a problem or issue. An example of a proactive policy might be issuing government rebates or kickbacks if old gas guzzling cars are traded in for more energy efficient vehicles. A policy and a law may at first appear somewhat similar. But they are different. Policies are used to guide the decisions of an organization or institution. While laws are used to implement justice and oder. So for instance, a school might have a late or missing school policy, which guides the students and schools actions for what to do if a child is late or misses school. A more serious version of this would be truancy laws, like in the state of California. Their law states that if a child misses over a certain number of days of school on a consistant basis the parents can be prosecuted and possible sent to jail. Remember a policy is a plan for action but a law is an established procedure or standard that must be followed by members of society. It is important policies can be used to create laws and laws can in turn require certain policies to be created in order for it to be carried out. It is important to remember that anybody can generate policy. A policy maker is someone who makes decisions for a collective group or organization. Good policy makers base their decisions on the best scientific data available. To better understand the role of policy in our everyday lives, let’s look at in the context of the environment. Environmental Science can be described as being an interdisciplinary field. Policy makers in this field develop policy by drawing from scientific and non scientific fields to better address and understand environmental problems. In other words, coming up with good environmental policies requires having accurate scientific data as well as understanding of the people involved in an environmental problem or issue. Environmental policies can exist at the local, regional, state, national and international level. The policy known as the Montreal Protocol is an example of an environmental policy that phased out chemicals to our society like CFCs The Montreal Protocol is landmark because was international and impacted the actions of many different countries. What are some important environmental issues that need better policies in place to help produce better solutions for all? The first step to making a difference in the world is science followed by smart policy, that is data driven and considerate of social and environmental factors. What you learn about policy today will help you create better decisions and plans for the future.