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Title: An Analytical And Descriptive Model Of Sustainable Development
Author: And Society Research Unit Environmental
Author: Environment Agency
Document Type: Monograph
Annotation: Environment Agency Project ID:EAPRJOUT_361, Representation ID: 91, Object ID: 1705
1. In 1998, the Environment Agency of England and-Wales commissioned the Environment and Society Research Unit and the Department of Geography,.University College London, to develop a conceptual and -visual model that will help the Agency to contribute to sustainable development. The outcome is this Report which is based on a desk study of relevant literature and. three empirical studies undertaken with sthe Agency during. 1998. The studies comprised: l interviews with senior staff, l an evaluation of the Action at.Home.programme designed to promote sustainable ,lifestyles and undertaken by Agency. staff in the North West region; 0 and a stakeholder: approach to a Local Environment Agency Plan (LEAP) conducted for the:New Forest area tear-n. 2. A review of international and national government- thinking on sustainable- development shows that the new Labour government in the UK places particularly strong.. emphasis on social welfare dimensions of sustainability and ainvolvement of the public at all stages in a process of decision making :designed to progress sustainable.development. This is in contrast to earlier approaches which have been guided by economic and environmental concerns rather than social and institutional (governance) concerns. 3. Responding to this new emphasis on social welfare, ethics and governance issues, the Report reviews existing models of sustainable development. It goes on -to identify two contrasting approaches to understanding the individual and society which reflect differenttheories and practices in- social science. The new conceptual model of sustainable development presented in this Report is developed through an examination of these two ways of understanding how societyaworksa. 4. The older, traditional approach is described as a areductionista way of thinking about howindividuals fit in society. The reductionist model reflects the acause and effecta thinking of the physical sciences and privileges- individual, rational choices and understandings. In its review of current models -of sustainablea- development, the Report shows that these are underpinned by the reductionist model of society. 5. The newer, more radical approach is adescribed in the Report as a acontextualist? way of embedding individuals within their specific environmental, economic; social and cultural contexts.- Within-. contextualist thinking, society is seen as being composed of many institutions which, aare more -.or less strongly shaped by socially determined rules and regulations. Individuals are understood as social actors who are both, and capable ofshaping;these aharda and-asofta institutions that make up society. The contextualist model reflects the emerging social welfare and institutional approach favoured by the present government: 6. The Report pursues a decision-path aapproach linked to a series .of key questions to .. demonstrate that the two idealised models of society generate different ways of moving in .the direction of sustainable development.. The models lead to different conclusions about: l the. individual insociety; l the role information and institutions engaging with the public; l the way in which -the environment interacts with society; l the economic and -political processes which determine how society aworksa; l and the role of expert and lay knowledge. R and D Project Record E6/006/1 ii 7. The outcome of this analysis is the presentation of a new, contextualist model of sustainable development which is dynamic rather than static, and which conceptualises sustainability as a process of negotiation which seeks to identify the correct trajectory society should take. 8. Examples of how Agency staff are responding to the challenge of developing a coherent approach to sustainable development are discussed in the Report. An extended example based on the New Forest LEAP, demonstrates how the Agency has already begun to respond to this challenge by developing a more inclusionary approach to environmental decision-making. The empirical studies provide examples of how movement towards a more contextualist model of society finds favour with a broad range of Agency staff, and the stakeholders and partners the Agency needs to work with. 9. Based on the findings of the-literature review and the empirical studies, the Report offers a new, socially-informed model of sustainable development. This model is underpinned by principles of inclusion, equity, precaution and the polluter-pays principle. The model serves to reposition the working practices of the Agency by embracing thesocial. and governance issues of sustainable development. As a practical means of taking forward this approach , it is suggested that the Agency uses a decision pathway based on the questions raised by the reductionist and contextualist models of society to inform all their polices, programmes and projects. 10. Increased government attention to new forms of dialogue and institutional responses to secure the increased participation of communities and stakeholders will require the Agency to awork in partnership with others, and to engage the public more directly in its work. When sustainability is understood as a dynamic, on-going process of negotiation, the Agency will meet its duty under the 1995 Environment Act through the promotion of active dialogue with its stakeholders and publics. In this discursive style of decision-making, shared responsibility for the environment is acknowledged, and policies and actions can be designed to reflect the joint ownership of environmental problems and solutions. 11. One of the main tasks facing the Agency is to ensure that this new approach to recognising the social benefits of the environment is reflected in their policies and working practices.. Specifically, this will involve the Agency in: i. building partnerships environmental including those with business where involvement with issues remains highly variable; ii. ensuring that disadvantaged groups are not further disadvantaged by SD policies iii. engaging regional and local interests in decision-making processes; and iv. promoting a higher profile for Local Agenda 21 in local cormnunities. 12. It is increasingly recognised by governments, environmental non-governmental organisations, business, and academic researchers that existing approaches and tools for environmental protection must be augmented by new methodologies. New forms of dialogue and institutional responses are needed to secure the increased participation of communities at R and D Project Record E6/006/1 . .. 111 international; national, regional and local levels. The Report argues that it is essential that the Environment Agency takes the initiative ain translating, developing.. and achieving these objectives through its policies and decision-making methodologies. The Agency .has shown itself to- be open to innovation. in its principles and working practices through. exercises such as the New Forest LEAP. The challenge is to progress culture change throughout the Agency to embrace the new understanding of. sustainable development. 13. By recognising sustainability as a dynamic process of negotiation, and by adopting a collaborative and inclusionary approach to environmental decision-making offered by the new model, the Agency will be -able to respond effectively to the changing environmental, L economic, social and political requirements that drive sustainable development. 14. The Report provides the Environment Agency with insights to facilitate the development and implementation of policies that will enable it to carry out its functions.for environmental protection aand prudent ause -of environmental resources within a context for sustainable development..that now emphasises new social objectives and :new institutional practices. R and D Project Record E6/006/1 iv I
Publisher: Environment Agency
Subject Keywords: Modelling; Sustainable development; Environment Agency
Extent: 84
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