The availability heuristic — a cognitive rule of thumb whereby events that are easily brought to mind are judged to be more likely — is employed by decision-makers on a daily basis. Availability campaigns occur when individuals and groups strategically exploit this cognitive tendency in order to generate publicity for a particular issue, creating pressure to effect legislative change. This paper is the first to argue that environmental availability campaigns are more beneficial than they are harmful. Because they result in pressure on Congress, these campaigns serve as a catalyst for the enactment of critical new legislative initiatives. Specifically, these campaigns streamline the legislative process by: (1) determining in a transparent and nonarbitrary manner which issues receive attention; (2) overcoming some of the undesirable barriers to the enactment of new initiatives; and (3) encouraging efficient, bipartisan cooperation to pass vital legislation and regulation. Availability campaigns have resulted in critically valuable directives such as the DDT ban, Superfund, and the Oil Pollution Act. Although the primary focus of this paper is environmental legislation, availability campaigns may have benefits in a wide variety of other areas of law and regulation.
Wilson, Molly J. Walker, Publicity, Pressure, and Environmental Legislation: The Untold Story of Availability Campaigns (July 16, 2010). Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 30, p. 2147, 2009; Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-13.