Proceedings of Conference. 4th-7th June 2006, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Proceedings of Conference. 4th-7th June 2006, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Parallel Session 1

Session 1.1. Scottish Case Studies

Participation and regulation: where two worlds collide?

Richards, C. and Blackstock, K.

SEPA, Scotland

Regulatory regimes to ensure environmental protection have been constructed through a combination of political and technical deliberation, the end-point of which is generally a set of criteria for decision-making aimed at controlling specific substances with known or suspected impacts on the environment or human health. Regulatory decision-making in the form of licensing site operators is thus one stage in a series of decision-making processes, being preceded by: European and national legislation; the development of technical standards, procedural guidance and regulations; and, in many cases, by planning decisions which determine the location of a proposed facility. While this legacy has its advantages, these constraints on regulatory decisions sometimes sit uneasily with the growing emphasis on ensuring the active involvement of stakeholders and the wider public in environmental decision making. This paper discusses the findings of a research project carried out to assist an environmental regulator, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), improve its consultation processes to make them more accessible and transparent. The research addressed the question of how the ideals of participation fare when they come into contact with a tightly-constrained decision-making process, and at how individuals working at the interface between the two have attempted to reconcile them. It led to a set of recommendations as to how SEPA can build on experience within the organization and from other regulators to develop a set of corporate principles for public involvement, together with a toolkit to support staff applying them.

Full paper

Investigating farmer attitudes towards genetically modified crops in Scotland

Hall, C.

SAC, Scotland

Consumer attitudes towards genetically modified (GM) food are well documented but there has been much less focus on farmer attitudes to GM crops. This paper reports findings from a study investigating farmers’ attitudes to GM crops in Scotland . Initial results from a Q methodology study reveal three discourses, one apparently pro-GM and demonstrating an expectation of benefits, the second representing a more uncertain position, wary of the potential risks of the technology, but likely to be reluctant adopters, and the third describing a group demonstrating a somewhat fatalistic attitude towards the issue of GM technology adoption and impact. The paper also reports findings from a postal survey conducted as part of the Q methodology study. Results from a scenario question suggest that the majority of Scottish farmers are unsure at this stage whether they would choose to adopt GM technology or not, opting instead for a ‘wait and see’ position. The intention (or not) to adopt, appears to be related to a number of variables such as type of crops grown, whether or not the farmer expects to pass on the farm to the next generation of the family, and whether the farmer thinks GM crops will be good or bad for Scottish agriculture. These findings contribute to the overall GM debate by providing some insight into the differing positions held by farmers in Scotland .


“Now who decided that?”: Experts and the public in biodiversity conservation

Garritt, J.

Open University/Open Eye Research , Scotland

After the 1992 UN Biodiversity Convention, a raft of strategies emerged from the local, national and supranational levels attempting a harmonized response. This harmonization was sought – amongst other ways – by interpreting biodiversity according to a global scientific discourse. Although often holistic and integrative in their aspirations, in practice these strategies largely followed the same conceptualization of reifying and protecting the natural world as if distinct from the human world. More recent policies have underlined the importance of holistic and participatory principles in biodiversity governance – a welcome evolution – yet still the practitioner realm experiences a gap between intent and practice in achieving harmonized outcomes.

This paper uses ethnographic research conducted by this author and others, and practitioner reflections, to make the argument that the conventional ‘globalized’ scientific discourse of biodiversity can compromise its local relevance, and consequently the degree of public and stakeholder participation. A science studies perspective is used to help address how interpretations of biodiversity at the local level appear to be value-laden rather than scientific, but since this is what gives them currency and significance, marginalizing them can be to the detriment of “successful” conservation. An analysis is then made of some current programmes in conservation and land management that explicitly try to combine lay knowledge and professional expertise: that aspire to public engagement, stakeholder participation and “sound science”. Conclusions are drawn about how a scientific discourse can influence the extent of participation, and thoughts are offered about how future policies might successfully encapsulate different interpretations of nature .

Full paper

Session 1.2. Representation

Protecting future generations through submajority rule

Ekeli, K.S.

NTNU – Norwegian University of Science and Technology , Norway

The purpose of this paper is to present and consider two new constitutional devices the aims of which are to give minorities of legislators a political tool to represent and protect the interests of future generations. The common denominator of the proposed reforms is that they represent examples of submajority rules that grant defined minorities of legislators certain procedural rights. The first device empowers a minority of at least 1/4 or 1/3 of the representatives in the legislative assembly to demand that the final enactment of a law proposal should be delayed until a new election has been held, if they believe that the law in question can inflict serious harm upon posterity. The second implies that a minority of at least 1/3 of the legislators can require a referendum on a law proposal that can have a serious adverse impact on the living conditions of future people. I will argue that these constitutional devices can give minorities of legislators a political tool that can encourage more future-oriented public deliberations and decisions. Despite the fact that these constitutional mechanisms face some important problems, it is argued that such devices can be defended on the basis of central ideals in recent theory of deliberative democracy.

Choosing participants for a constructive technology assessment exercise: dilemmas and consequences

Marris, C., Joly, P. and Bertrand, A.

INRA, France

Interactive technology assessment (iTA) is a form of participative Technology Assessment (pTA) which differs from traditional Technology Assessment in that it does not seek to predict and accommodate the impacts of a given technology in post hoc decision-making, but rather to exert leverage on its development. This departure is rooted in the recognition that technology is shaped out of the interplay of actors, and impacts are viewed as being co-produced during the development of technology. iTA seeks to enable interactions to occur between technology developers, promoters, users and other impacted communities, as early as possible in the developmental process. iTA also distinguishes itself from other pTA procedures (e.g. consensus conferences) by focusing on the involvement of new actors, rather than members of an undifferentiated general public, broadly representative of the population. In this paper, we discuss the practical implications of the iTA approach on the selection of participants, based on our experience of organising an iTA project for the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), about whether or not they should proceed with field trials of potentially virus-resistant genetically modified (GM) vineyards. We examine the methodological choices we made, and present our analysis of their consequences on the interactions which occurred within the working group, the contents of the report that it produced, and the way in which this was received by the decision makers who had commissioned the event (INRA Directorate) and by actors in the GM debate who had been excluded from the exercise.

Representing GM nation

Reynolds, L. and Szerszynski, B.

CSEC Lancaster University , England

In 2003, GM Nation, an official nationwide public dialogue on the commercial cultivation of GM crops, took place in the UK , and itself became the subject of some controversy. The main controversy concerned whether a representative general public had in fact participated, or whether those already critical towards GM crops had in some sense 'captured' the process. In this paper we suggest that the latter argument depend upon the construction of a ‘general public’, defined by its disengagement and distance from the GM issue and by its ‘neo-Hobbesian’ atomised relationship to the nation-state. By contrast, we argue that GM Nation? revealed the existence of important multiple and specialised ‘publics of GM’, which, unlike this atomised ‘general public’, are constituted as such precisely by their relation to the GM issue. Rather than simply measure GM Nation against either an idealised model of deliberative participatory processes, or against the abstract and static general public of the quantitative survey, the 2003 UK debates can be understood in an historical mode, as revealing how the living body politic, with its various mediating organs of civil society, social movements and class fractions, actually received GM crops. Within this, multiple publics can be detected that are engaged around a particular issue rather than exclusively defined as the population of a nation state. These publics are concrete and specific rather than abstract and general; are articulated rather than atomised; and are intertwined within socio-material networks rather than reified into a purely social realm. The official UK public dialogue around GM also reveals a complex process which attempted to manage these multiple and embedded publics by creating separate spaces for scientific and public discourses.

Full paper

Session 1.3. Innovative methods

Remote sensing technology and peasant knowledge: A participatory spatial approach to conservation planning in Puerto Galera , Philippines

Cantos, J.A. and Daproza, M.G.

WWF, Philippines

Planning for biodiversity conservation is usually faced with scarcity of data on which to base for management decisions. In an effort to address this gap, analytical tools and decision support systems are increasingly used. These tools integrate and process large volumes of data and help address complicated but key planning principles in a systematic way. Furthermore, they assist stakeholders understand how key data are utilized, and enable rapid evaluation of outputs against planning principles. Based on available biophysical information, decision makers are provided compelling suggestions for effective and sound decision-making. This process is focused on complementing field-based observations with data generated through remote sensing applications. The challenge then is to prove that units identified on remote sensing data represent unique composition.

Sustainability foresight as a means for participatory transformation management

Truffer, B., Voss J.P. and Konrad, K.

Cirus / Eawag , Switzerland

Utility sectors are currently characterized by a sharply increasing amount of uncertainty regarding their long term perspectives. Substantial transformation pressures are currently building up with regard to market regulation, basic technologies, customer expectations and environmental conditions. Given that infrastructure bound technological systems depend on long term stability of societal consensus and other border conditions, this increased uncertainty calls for new approaches of planning, evaluation of alternative trajectories and strategy formulation. Sustainablility Foresight has been developed as a participatory method for developing sustainability strategies of entire industry sectors. It encompasses three analytical steps (i) the reconstruction of visions about future sector structures, (ii) sustainability implications that are entailed by these visions, (iii) conjoint strategy development for actor groups participating in the endeavour.

Full paper

Incorporating local knowledge into urban environmental research: the photo-survey method

Moore, G., Croxford, B., Adams, M., Refaee, M., Cox, T. and Sharples, S.

University College London , England

As multi-disciplinary work thrives, innovative methods of data collection, measurement and evaluation are slowly emerging within many disciplines. Within this paper we present an original participatory approach for incorporating residents’ views of local sustainability issues into urban environmental research. We successfully combined self-directed photography with log-sheets as prompts for semi-structured interviews in the form of a ‘photo-survey’. The photo-survey was one aspect of a multi-method approach incorporating qualitative and quantitative techniques. It provided an excellent tool to engage residents and to understand the experiences of those living in an inner city area. A background to the method is explained, alongside the findings from a study conducted in central London . Through involving local people in this way we were able to gather a rich, detailed set of data illustrating the huge variations in the experiences of residents living within the same local area. The participatory nature of the method also brought many benefits to the research process, noticeably a change in the dynamic between the researcher and the participant. The resulting dataset is multi-format and novel ways of accessing and using this resource to gain greater understanding of various environmental sustainability issues are also being developed within this project. However, the study also raised some important considerations for future work undertaken with this method and with using photographs as a set of data, especially how the tool can be used within wider participatory processes.

Full paper

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