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Paperback | $30.00 Short | £20.95 | ISBN: 9780262650533 | 304 pp. | 6 x 8.9 in | May 2000

Making Better Environmental Decisions

An Alternative to Risk Assessment


For the past quarter-century, government and the private sector have relied heavily on risk assessment for making decisions, allowing widespread environmental deterioration. In this book, Mary O'Brien recommends a simple yet profound shift to another decision-making technique: "alternatives assessment." Instead of asking how much of a hazardous activity is safe (which translates into how much damage the environment can tolerate), alternatives assessment asks how we can avoid or minimize damage while achieving society's goals.

Alternatives assessment is a simple, commonsense alternative to risk assessment. It is based on the premise that it is not acceptable to damage human and nonhuman health or the environment if there are reasonable alternatives. The approach calls for taking precautionary measures even if some cause-and-effect relationships have not been fully established scientifically. The process must involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action at all. Equally important, it must be democratic and include potentially affected parties.

O'Brien not only makes a persuasive case for alternative assessment; she tells how to implement it. She also shows how this technique has profound implications for public health, for our stewardship of the environment, and for a truly democratic government.

Published in association with the Environmental Research Foundation.


"Risk assessments are a recipe for the continued degradation of ourenvironment. People who want to leave a healthier planet for our childrenwill find Dr. O'Brien's book an invaluable resource, a ray of hope, and acall to action."
Bern Johnson, Executive Director, U. S. Office, Environmental LawAlliance Worldwide (E-LAW)