Reauthorization of the National Environmental Policy Act: Application of the Wayfinding Leadership Paradigm



[👑|💕] We don’t worship the earth; instead, we realize that God gave it to us, and we are accountable to Him for how we use it. After creating Adam, the first man, the Bible says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). God didn’t tell him to exploit the world or treat it recklessly, but to watch over it and use it wisely. Like a good ruler, we should seek the welfare of everything God entrusts to us—including the creation. The Bible says, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10). [👑|💕]


On April 22, 2017 [Earth Day🌏], millions of people marched for science & it’s crucial role in informing environmental policy worldwide. Environmental advocates in America marched to declare their support for environmental policy in opposition to the current conservative presidential administration filled with climate change skeptics. On December 15, 2015, after the language of the agreement had been negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCC in Paris, the agreement was adopted. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.   On June 1st, 2017, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement which will pose severe implications to climate action, diplomatic relations and the U.S. economy.  Mr. Waskow of World Resources Institute states that “this will be seen as an attempt to blow up international cooperation on what the world sees as one of the most critical issues of our time”. In the wake of a decision that attempts to derail the environmental protection movement, I am happy to share the thesis and introduction to my academic paper “Reauthorization of the National Environmental Policy Act: Application of the Wayfinding Leadership Paradigm”, which seeks to determine whether morals and ethics found in New Zealand’s Wayfinding Leadership Paradigm, can be utilized to guide the environmental decision-making process [specifically NEPA] in the United States.


Thesis:  When the general public expresses distaste for actions that aren’t conducive to living a prosperous life, protests usually follow. This was the case in the 1970s, when several events threatened environmental sustainability. The government’s response to the Earth Day march was the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA is a landmark piece of legislation because it placed environmental issues on the national agenda and created a comprehensive policy approach. The narrative of NEPA requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision-making processes and it also gives citizens a seat at the table to be able to participate in the process by voicing their concerns about federal agency actions. In practice, this approach has been compromised over the last 4 decades due to misinterpretation by the judicial branch and exemptions enacted by Congress. This is problematic because it has led to time and financial barriers to drafting informative environmental impact statements, citizens’ concerns have been marginalized and judicial interpretations have weakened the impact of NEPA. I propose that a reauthorization of NEPA should keep the participatory and dissemination of information elements, revamp the environmental impact statement process and introduce incentives and penalties to increase compliance and oversight of enforcement. The reauthorization should focus on creating strong administrative rules to maximize enforcement capabilities. The Wayfinding Leadership Paradigm can be used to demonstrate how environmental stakeholders can make decisions that are inclusive and progressive via action oriented developmental leadership principles.

Introduction: The National Environmental Policy Act is a provision that was signed into law in 1969 by President Richard Nixon. The provision requires federal agencies to prepare environmental assessments which requires consideration of the possible harmful effects to the environment prior to the implementation of an agency project. NEPA served as a response to increasing public concern surrounding environmental issues. There have been major developments in environmental policy in the United States over the past four decades due to the increase in awareness among the masses, political pressure by environmental groups, decrease in water quality and conflicting sentiments surrounding climate change.  Since the 1960s, laws regulating water and air pollution have been passed and in 1970 President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. The milestones were met with great opposition from conservatives and businesses who were not in favor of the high costs associated with such environmental regulation. The debate around whether or not climate change is natural or man-made continues today. It is important to trace back to the origins of efforts set forth that placed environmental policy on the national agenda. The National Environmental Policy Act was proposed by President Richard Nixon and passed in 1969 primarily as a planning and decision making tool leaving interpretation up to the courts and causing conflicting uses by federal agencies.

I would like to analyze three major concerns that have emerged since the creation of the law and propose recommendations for how the bill can be strengthened given the political, social and economic environment in America today. The three concerns are the barriers to the environmental impact assessment process, the limits on citizens’ voices addressing agency actions and judicial decisions that have weakened NEPA by running counter to environmental sustainability. First, I will provide historical context about NEPA- how and why it was created and what public policy issue it sought to remedy. Then, I will present a discussion on what NEPA’s content has allowed the bill to do both effectively and ineffectively since its implementation. More specifically, an evaluation on how well NEPA has or hasn’t met the goals outlined in its text. (I will focus on the impact of EIS, EAS, and lack of enforcement rhetoric) These pros and cons will be accompanied by examples of ways in which NEPA has been enforced by the executive branch and interpreted by the courts.  Next, I present my argument for elements of NEPA that should be changed. I use the Wayfinding Leadership Paradigm as the blueprint for implementing recommendations for stakeholders to strengthen the NEPA process. The paradigm identifies five waypoints which are used on the journey toward inclusive, inviting and transparent leadership and decision-making. The five waypoints, orientation on how to lead, implementing values, human dynamics, deepening practices, and exploring and discovering destinations explores new worlds of possibilities for leaders to serve as the foundation for interweaving understandings of leadership from different perspectives to moral & ethical decision-making for social justice issues, i.e., environmental justice.


Author’s [👑] Note: 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. [I URGE you to get involved in any capacity that you see fit, whether it be by starting to recycle, reaching out to your local representatives or joining the Environmental Protection Movement! The world needs YOUR voice [🎤] to help save MOTHER EARTH!

Here are some resources to get you started:

March for Science:

Environmental Advocacy Groups:

Global Environmental News:

                                      [*The full text is available upon request*]


Whitney F. Martinez |Political Science, M.A., C.G.S.

Ph.D. StudentDepartment of Politics & Government|School of Social Science, Policy & Evaluation

M.B.A. Candidate/Research Assistant, Drucker School of Management

 Founding President, Phenomenal Voices

Marketing|Communications Director ’17-’18, Drucker School Student Association 

National Society of Leadership and Success   

 Claremont Graduate University 

Adjunct Faculty, Department of Political Science

School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Chaffey College

5885 Haven Ave, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91737



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