Date  |  Author  |  Subject  |  Thread


Environmental Information: A Definition

One of the benefits I hope this opportunity provides us all, is a
better realization of a concept I have been describing at 
professional library meetings for more than a decade, the concept 
of Environmental ICE -- Information, Communication, and Education.

If we look at our environmental history, the first thing we 
should see is that our need for environmental data and 
information has grown since 1970. I use 1970 as a benchmark, for
several reasons: 

  * the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 became Public Law 
    on January 1, 1970

  * the President's Council on Environmental Quality was established 
    (by NEPA)

  * Earth Days were celebrated

  * the U.S. government was reorganized along its environmental 
    responsibilities creating, among others, the Environmental 
    Protection Agency.

In the past 30 years our need for environmental information not
only grew, it has matured. The types of data and information we
need today in the year 2000 is vastly different than our 
information needs of 1970. We no longer are neophytes dabbling 
in unknown subject areas. Some of us responding to this 
EPA Libraries opportunity having developed our environmental
information needs as a result of on-the-job training. Others may
have learned about things environmental in graduate school or
college, and others may have had to learn about the environment
as a result of personal or community necessity. There are also
some of you that have spent your entire life living in a 
post-Earth Day environment, having been born after April 22,

However, we are all united in our needs for environmental 

It might be fitting to provide on this first day a working 
"definition" to answer the question, "What is ENVIRONMENTAL 

I use the text from an article I wrote in August of 1991 
("Environment Online: The Greening of the Databases, Part 1. 
General Interest Databases," Database: The Magazine of Database 
Reference and Review, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 13-27), where I quoted 
Dr.Marta Dosa, now Professor Emerita in the School of Information 
Studies at Syracuse University:

"Environmental Information is the process that transfers data 
and inforamtion from source to user in any field of knowledge of 
activity applicable to environmental problem solving."

Here, Dr. Dosa provides the characterization of environmental
information that reflects

-  the interdisciplinary nature of research and professional work

-  the differences in how people preceive problems, propose 
   solutions, and assign priorities

-  the peaks and valleys in public-policy attention to these 
   problems, resulting in uneven funding of research, information 
   services, and collection development

-  the dispersion of the literature in almost all types of 
   information resources, including indexing and abstracting 
   services, directories, specialized bibliographies, government 
   documents, and statistical sources

-  the user's need to learn how to interact with information 
   resources and systems to determine the most useful search 
   terms and definitions

-  the ongoing proliferation of new information services and 
   systems, which mandate sound techniques for searching and 

What is remarkable about Dr. Dosa's prophetic observations is 
that they were written more than 22 years ago! 

Her observations point to one undisputable fact: our needs for 
environmental information have not diminished over time. When 
put into the context of the surge of data and information that 
exists and the technologies of the "Electronic Age," her words 
are even more true today.

It is this context I hope we all grow a greater understanding of
and appreciation for the concept of Environmental ICE, and what
EPA and others are doing to provide us with an ample supply.

Fred Stoss
Science and Engineering Library
University at Buffalo

 Date  |    Author  |  Subject  |  Thread

Welcome | About this Event | Briefing Book | Join the Dialogue | Search the Site