Public engagement and access to environmental and public health information are vital democratic tools. A lack of government openness impairs everything from preventing – and cleaning up – oil spills to protecting children from toxic chemicals. The need to break down information barriers and bring the public back into the policymaking process is greater than ever. A lack of access to quality information – and to policymakers – hurts people and the landscapes we cherish and depend on.
Today, individuals and governments at all levels are facing various environmental and public health dilemmas. Dealing with these issues requires open and accountable government processes; expanded and improved data collection, analysis, and distribution; and greater public engagement. Such improvements are needed in order to tackle the full spectrum of threats, from identifying the health hazards of the tens of thousands of chemicals in commerce, to improved monitoring of pollution, to filling the huge data gaps in our climate policies.
After more than a year of work, a broad coalition of groups and individuals active in protecting human and environmental health have taken a major step on the path toward greater government transparency and public participation. These public interest advocates have produced a comprehensive list of policy recommendations that would greatly strengthen our right to know and increase the government's level of community engagement. The recommendations outlined in this document are an action plan for the federal government; a plan that is bold yet feasible, ambitious yet realistic. Now the opportunity to advance this proactive agenda is upon us. We call on our leaders and decision makers to take up this call to action and ensure that every person in the country has access to the information needed to make decisions that enable all of us to live, work, play, and learn within a healthy environment.