Environmental Management

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 93–99 | Cite as

Why not in your backyard? scientific data and nonrational decisions about risk

  • Daniel E. Willard
  • Melinda M. Swenson


The siting of hazardous waste facilities constitutes a special case of the many “no win” environmental decisions we face. They share common features: (a) we must decide something; (b) the decision affects some people more than others; (c) as scientists we are not 100% confident of our research results; (d) elements of the decision remain unquantifiable; and (e) decisions combine both scientific and political elements. In this paper we attempt to illustrate and analyze several examples that combine all of these elements and to suggest methods which would lead toward a scientific valid and politically useful resolution. Using well-known examples such as the public's fear of death from nuclear power, snakebite, and smoking, we attempt to integrate public perception of risks into a decision-making model. Finally, the conclusions deal with the role of policy making, public perception, and science in resolving environmental controversies. We do not, however, solve this perplexing problem.

Key words

Nonrational risk assessment Policy making Decision matrix 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel E. Willard
    • 1
  • Melinda M. Swenson
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Public and Environmental AffairsIndiana UniversityBloomington
  2. 2.School of NursingIndiana UniversityIndianapolis

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