Participation and environment

Franciscus H.J.M. Coenen, Dave Huitema, Laurence J. O'Toole

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


The main subject to which this book seeks to contribute is the question of how and under which circumstances public participation can enhance the quality of environmental decision-making. This chapter outlines the issues addressed in the succeeding contributions. The core of the argument is that in the present age of ecology and in a society permeated by risk, ecological problems can wreak havoc with the social agenda. Environmental problems are not merely technical; they also raise inherently political questions and thus bear directly on long-standing challenges of democratic theory and practice. The theme of democratic governance is at the heart of environmental decision-making because the latter often requires a shift of resources and opportunities from some groups to others, and because finding solutions may necessarily require continuing and broadened participation — or so it has frequently been argued. Various solutions have been offered to deal with environmental problems, some stressing the need for a strong centralist state acting on the public’s behalf others favouring a more decentralised solution. In either case, the topic of public participation is central. Public participation is here approached from an analytic-functional perspective, meaning that the focus is on the maintenance of human society. This chapter introduces the criterion of competence to evaluate public participation processes. How well actual decision processes perform on this criterion can be assessed through the use of substantive and procedural considerations. Even if certain decision processes score well on the criterion in one setting or situation, it is important to assess carefully the cultural, institutional and physical circumstances under which the decision-making process is successful. In this fashion, a truly useful empirical theory of participation and environment can be developed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationParticipation and the quality of environmental decision making
EditorsFranciscus H.J.M. Coenen, D. Huitema, Laurence J. O'Toole
Place of PublicationDordrecht/Boston/London
PublisherKluwer Academic Publishers
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-011-5330-0
ISBN (Print)978-94-010-6240-4
Publication statusPublished - 1998

Publication series

NameEnvironment & policy
PublisherKluwer Academic Publishers


  • METIS-101800
  • IR-4843


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