Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 3, 2009

New Year’s Resolution: Read Agenda for a Sustainable America

Widener Law School Professor John Dernbach has pulled together what may be the most important book of 2009 for lawyers, planners,  officials at all levels of government and the general public – Agenda for a Sustainable America.  With thoughtful contributions from 41 leading scholars, scientists and lawyers, a compelling case is made that we are indeed at a tipping point when it comes to sustainability, and that the United States can and must take a leadership role at home and in the international arena. 


As Professor Dernbach explains in Chapter 1, “This book starts with a simple but powerful premise: Sustainable development would make the United States more livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous. Policies that promote sustainability would reduce risks to our national security, improve our economic efficiency and productivity, enhance our health and communities, improve the lives of the poorest among us, and foster greater human well-being in other countries. And it would achieve these things while protecting and restoring the environment for our generation and for generations that follow.”


The book not only includes an assessment of how the United State is doing with respect to sustainable development in 28 areas of American life—including forestry; transportation; oceans and estuaries; religion; and state, local, and national governance (which is not as good as people might want to believe), but it offers lawmakers, policymakers and members of the public more than 100 concrete recommended action items for the next five to ten years that will make a difference. These recommendations, which can be organized around the following ten themes, are explained in detail throughout the book:


1. The United States should systematically reduce its ecological footprint.

2. The United States government must adopt, as soon as possible, greenhouse gas emission reduction programs that will reduce U.S. emissions to our fair share of safe global emissions.

3. The United States should create more employment opportunities in environmental protection and restoration, and make it easier for unskilled and low-income persons to enter and remain in the workforce.

4. Sustainable development should be an organizing principle for all levels of government.

5. Nongovernmental actors should play a major role in achieving sustainability.

6. Individuals, families, and consumers should have more sustainable options in the decisions they make.

7. Sustainable development should become a central part of public and formal education.

8. The United States should strengthen its environmental and natural resources laws.

9. The United States needs to play an international leadership role on behalf of sustainable development.

10. The United States needs to improve the information and data available to the public to make decisions for sustainability.



This book, published by the Environmental Law Institute, is set to be released the week of January 12, 2009, and can be ordered from Island Press here. The book will also be available through Amazon here.  This book is a follow-up to the 2002 Stumbling Towards Sustainability.


For more information, visit the book’s website,, or Professor Dernbach’s website: 







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