by John Weingart
October 2007 (2nd Edition)
Rutgers University Press
New Brunswick, New Jersey
(First published by the Center For Analysis Of Public Issues: 2001)
John Weingart discusses Waste Is A Terrible Thing To Mind
John Weingart, now associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, was the official in New Jersey state government responsible for meeting a federal mandate to find an acceptable location for the low-level radioactive waste generated within the state. His book is the story of how one agency, instead of imposing a top-down solution, tried to design an approach that would confront public fears by seeking a community that would volunteer to host the needed disposal facility. It is also a larger saga of the challenges facing government in an era of heightened cynicism and distrust and the risks of not addressing an ever-widening chasm between government and the general public.
PLANNING, the Journal of the American Planning Association, says: - "This book is a rare and precious resource in the planning literature: A chronicle of failure that does not scapegoat and that faces hard questions."
CHOICE MAGAZINE from The American Library Association, describes the book as: - "a vivid account with extremely valuable insights into the machinations of government and administration in dealing with the public on highly controversial issues." and recommends that: "upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses consider Waste Is A Terrible Thing To Mind: Risk, Radiation, and Distrust of Government to show what wide range of technical skills and more are needed to thrive in public administration."
STATE LEGISLATURES, the Journal of the National Conference of State Legislatures, calls the book: "An excellent case study about what the public expects and demands from government compared to what a state agency is able to provide."
THE STAR-LEDGER, New Jersey's largest daily paper, describes the book as: "A reflective, insightful book raising important questions about whether we as a society have the will to solve complex problems. Along the way there is humor, irony, and a substantial dose of politics and a minimum of the highly technical language that readers might dread. How, Weingart asks, can our relationship with government change to one in which we actually trust public agencies and officials to help us now what is dangerous and what isn't. This work is a major contribution to finding the answer."
POLITIFAX, the weekly electronic newsletter on politics, says: "If you haven't already read John Weingart's Waste Is A Terrible Thing To Mind you should. It's the classic NIMBY tale about the author's efforts - and frustrations - from 1994 to 1998 to find a site for the state's low-level radioactive waste. And, unlike any other book about policy we've ever read it's actually quite funny."
NUCLEAR NEWS, while probably mentioning Pete Seeger and Jerry Garcia for their first time ever, writes: "Like Pete Seeger, Weingart has a talent for conveying optimism for tackling some of life's most difficult problems in a most entertaining way. The optimism is tempered with a hard dose of cynicism about our political system's ability to live up to its maximum potential - a quality he shares with another of his heroes, the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead ... The idealism, devotion to a democratic process, and heartful belief that if you educate, they will understand ... sparks hope that someday even our deepest fears and prejudices may be overcome."
HEALTH PHYSICS SOCIETY NEWSLETTER says: "A good read for scientists who have come to realize that their scientific knowledge takes a second seat to nonscientific public opinion ... uplifting in showing that for the hard-to-solve public issues that will require government leadership and public support in order to make progress, there perhaps is hope."
RADWASTE SOLUTIONS, in a story headed "Heavy Subject - Light Touch", writes: "This is a wonderful book " fascinating reading ... It will amuse you, educate you, and, most of all, disturb you." (See the complete review in RADWASTE SOLUTIONS.)
SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT, from Ireland, says: "The reading is engaging and humorous while showing how frustrating and discouraging the democratic process can be. Waste Is A Terrible Thing To Mind is a book that should be read by all scientists and engineers involved in site planning, risk communication, and environmental policy."
"Written with a wry sense of humor, it is a pleasure to read and could provide the blueprint for future efforts to find locations for controversial land uses."
- Marie Curtis, Executive Director, New Jersey Environmental Lobby
"A penetrating look at one state's struggle with radioactive waste ... offering some tantalizing reflections on the public understanding of science and how we, in a democratic society, deal with complexity and uncertainty."
- Jay Kaufman, State Senator, Massachusetts State Legislature
"A provocative story, laced with humor, demonstrates how public distrust of government can make it impotent. It should be read by anyone working on public policy issues, especially planning, growth, and the environment."
- Harriet Keyserling, Former Energy Committee Chair, South Carolina State Legislature
"Readers interested in environmental policy, land use and how governments make decisions will learn much from this fine reflective insider's account. It's also a primer on how to survive and thrive in state government."
- David N. Kinsey, Visiting Professor, Woodrow Wilson School Princeton University
"... a fascinating case study of how a government agency creatively tried to solve an intractable public issue. Although the agency failed in its quest to recruit a town to host a low-level radioactive waste site, Weingart's detailed and often humorous narrative of the agency's efforts is a clear winner."
- Jack Sabatino, Judge, New Jersey Superior Court
"... a very engaging and sometimes discouraging case study about the pitfalls and perils of trying to site a controversial facility the right way."
- Gregg Larson, Administrator, Center for Biometric Research, University of Minnesota