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Planning and Environmental Management

Andrew Snow

andrew.snow@manchester.ac.uk

Previous education / experience

  • MA Environmental Impact Assessment and Management 2012; The University of Manchester
  • BA (Hons) Economic and Social Studies 2009;The University of Manchester

Thesis title

The conduct of environmental conduct: How are members of the public formed as subjects with particular capacities for environmental action as a result of their participation in environmental impact assessment (EIA)?

Supervisors

Research details

The effective practice of environmental impact assessment (EIA) should ensure more sustainable forms of development are realised through the planning process. Since EIA’s inception in 1969 through the National Environmental Protection Act in the U.S, followed by the EC Directive of 1985, there have undoubtedly been some improvements to projects as a direct result of this process. However, these have been limited, mainly, to ameliorating the negative environmental effects of single projects.

While not an unwanted outcome, ‘sustainable development’ is a much broader, long-term concept, and the actual contribution of EIA to this meta-level goal is, as things stand, considered to be insufficient for EIA to be deemed ‘effective’. As a result, other ways in which EIA might contribute to sustainable development have been explored, with much research focusing on its processes of public participation.

One of the most-cited indirect benefits of EIA is that through participation, members of the public gain access to a wide-range of environmental information which they can then utilise to make more sustainable decisions in their own lives.

With sustainable development the overriding objective for all planning practice within the UK, it can therefore be argued that EIA has the potential to help reach the governmental end of sustainable development through the participation and free choices of individual members of the public. This provides the entry point for this research.

Using the Foucauldian concept of governmentality, this research intends to explore EIA as a governmental practice and its concomitant rationalities, and investigate how it attempts to influence the environmental mentality (‘environmentality’) of members of the public who choose to utilise its public participatory procedures.

Governmentality as a concept looks at the more insipid forms of social power and how these come to effect the way in which those involved in social governance form themselves as subjects with particular interest, with particular emphasis on how individuals come to govern themselves through the exercise of free will and the way in which this can be shaped and directed to achieve state-devised governmental ends.

In the case of EIA and public participation, these forms of power include: the way in which environmental information is presented; the expectations other actors have of members of the public within the participatory space; the expectations members of the public have of themselves within the participatory space; how environmental information is received and cognised by members of the public; and how they are expected to use this information going forward.

The convergence of these forms of power contributes to the eventual ‘environmental identity’ members of the public take on. The extent to which this identity correlates with what might be considered a ‘sustainable’ identity is thus reflective of the extent to which EIA can be said to be contributing to sustainable development and whether it may (or may not) be considered ‘effective’.

Using case-studies of EIAs performed within the shale energy sector, this research will explore this identity-formation process and use the results to theorise on the effectiveness of EIA and potential directions for future practice.

Research interests

  • EIA and the different ways it can be considered ‘effective’;
  • Public participation within EIA – it’s purpose, how it is used and its effects;
  • Foucauldian governmentality as a methodology for investigating environmental government;
  • The formation of environmental identities as a result of governmental intervention.