The Forum for Environmental Law, Science, Engineering and Finance ™, or F.E.L.S.E.F. ®, is an inter-professional non-profit educational tool dedicated to the exchange of ideas through the development of a network of leading environmental professionals and policy makers of all backgrounds.

F.E.L.S.E.F. ® first took on this challenge by means of lunch panel discussions in downtown Washington, D.C.. In its first three years, from the fall of 1996 to the spring of 1999, F.E.L.S.E.F. ® produced and hosted 41 lunch seminars.

FAILSAFE ®, the organization's flagship online publication, also seeks to foster multi-lateral thinking and dialogue, but between writer and reader, and by means of electronic or "virtual" fora. FAILSAFE ® allows its members to read and write presentations on technical topics within an expertly managed and moderated circle of their peers. By means of the Internet, FAILSAFE ® builds on and leverages against the F.E.L.S.E.F. ® network and gives it a global dimension.

The FORUM ™ WEB SITE is the organization's latest electronic tool of mass communication. The new official Web site of F.E.L.S.E.F.® will allow an unprecedented increase in the amount of ideas which it can intermediate between key members of its network. Much more than the electronic journal could ever do all by itself, the new Web site, accessible from anywhere in the world and at anytime of the day or night, will allow panelist and program-goer alike to dispense with the challenges and frustrations associated with having to carve out vital work or lunch time to travel across town (or farther) for far too brief and too infrequent panel discussions. By means of the World Wide Web, the FORUM ™ WEB SITE builds on and leverages against the network developed by the FAILSAFE ® journals and the F.E.L.S.E.F. ® lunches.

F.E.L.S.E.F.® pursues the objective of eventually creating a common language and spirit of cooperation among all environmental professionals and policy makers. Without such a common language and spirit of cooperation, a world where environmental protection can be reconciled with economic growth, the ultimate objective of F.E.L.S.E.F. ®, will never come to be.

To "failsafe" is an intransitive verb defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as meaning "to revert to a danger-free condition in the event of a break down...". "Break down" sums up aptly the current condition of our traditional political, legal and regulatory system of environmental protection, as uncompromising and doctrinaire interests have gridlocked the process of reform. The no-compromise approach adopted these past few years by both sides of the environmental protection reform debate may have foiled the plans of the opposition and solidly anchored the sides to their respective constituencies, but only at the expense of denying us all a well reasoned evolution of our system of environmental protection.

F.E.L.S.E.F. ® aims to "failsafe" our traditional system of environmental protection. F.E.L.S.E.F.® is dedicated to allowing those people with the greatest knowledge about the environment, namely, the environmental professionals in law, science, engineering and finance, and the policy makers who rely on their expert judgment, an opportunity to remove themselves from the deadlocked ideological debate and establish multilateral lines of communication on neutral ground. F.E.L.S.E.F. ®'s agenda is process-oriented, not results-oriented: to provide convenient fora on a regular basis for environmental professionals and policy makers to learn more about technical challenges facing them, find out what they already agree on, work on arriving at new agreements and coordinated responses, and explain to each other what they still cannot agree upon and why.

F.E.L.S.E.F. ®, thanks to the Internet, cannot only shrink time and distance, but also flatten organizational hierarchies and allow the exchange of ideas not just horizontally from one person in one group to another person in another group, but also vertically from one person to another above or below in the same group. Thanks to its ability to let us engage in asynchronous dialogue from our home or offices anywhere in the world, at any time of the day or night, the Internet now allows presentations to be diffused to a circle 10, 20, 50, or even 100, times larger than what could previously be fit comfortably into one conference room, without significant degradation in the ability of any one participant to address questions to and dialogue with a presenter.

However, unlike most virtual fora that exist only on the Internet, F.E.L.S.E.F. ® is a REAL and not a pure virtual community, in that many, if not most, of its members have had and continue to have ample occasion to meet and converse face to face at work and in other settings. The real human groundwork was set down by F.E.L.S.E.F. ®: the 41 lunch panel seminars held in downtown Washington, D.C.. provided our group with a real set of human contacts and ties, and this human groundwork still makes it more valuable to its members than any pure virtual community could ever be. In addition, Michael Frodl's continuing commitment to managing personally the F.E.L.S.E.F. ® network guarantees that the community shall remain vital and real.

Through F.E.L.S.E.F. ® participants can continue to develop a network of professional contacts that cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries, a network that benefits not only their personal careers but also the environment. Environmental protection is indirectly enhanced as lawyers, scientists, engineers and financiers, as well as policy makers, learn to view environmental challenges from an interdisciplinary perspective, use their expanded personal networks to mobilize resources across professions, and craft integrated responses to these same environmental challenges. Capitalizing on this new professional advantage, these professionals and policy makers move up to increasingly more influential stations in their organizations and in society. From higher up on the ladder, these members of the F.E.L.S.E.F. ® community give further credit to the cooperative interprofessional approach fostered and developed by our fora.

Lastly, one other indirect and perhaps even the most important benefit deriving from these cooperative interprofessional fora is that F.E.L.S.E.F. ® continues to serve as an alternative model for those who have brought the traditional political process of environmental reform to a halt and who have yet to find a reason or a way out of the trenches they have dug themselves into. If the F.E.L.S.E.F. ® community can participate in regular forum discussions of technical issues in a non-confrontational, dispassionate and productive manner, then what's stopping the others?

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