It is not terribly diffi cult to know what needs to be done, though it is of course immensely diffi cult to get the relevant actors (government and other) to do it.

(Barry 1999 : 116)

The characteristics of environmental problems – uncertainty, complexity, interrelatedness and the like – provide some insight into why it is diffi cult to create effective environmental policy. But it is the combination of these wicked problems with features of the policy-making process itself that help explain the diffi culties associated with responding adequately to the challenges of our time. Our investigation of elements of the policy-making process begins with an analysis of the nature of collective action problems. This is a body of issues arising from the fact that the solution to environmental problems is necessarily a collective one. Hardin’s theory of the tragedy of the commons, which we discussed briefl y in the Introduction, will be analysed in more depth along with the problems associated with voting cycles. There are a number of obstacles standing in the way of achieving collective action and it is important to understand their characteristics prior to considering the forms that any solution might take. The case study at the end of the chapter further develops the analysis of collective action problems, drawing on the example of pollution control in US cities.