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Collaborative Environmental Concepts Project Nears Completion

In October, the Center for Environmental Policy will participate in the third and final workshop in an exciting collaborative project on the innovative concepts in environmental policy. This project is bringing together scholars from the US, Canada, and Europe to write an edited volume about the concepts in environmental policy that have helped to shape and reshape the field. These concepts range from biodiversity to sustainable consumption to environmental risk.

Many of these concepts are taken for granted in contemporary use, but few even existed more than fifty years ago. Perhaps the best example of this is the concept of the environment as we now use it when discussing environmental policy. As James Meadowcroft explains in his chapter, this ubiquitous, core concept of the field wasn't really established until the 1960s and '70s, when it was introduced into academic, legal, and cultural circles. Before that point, the term environment simply meant 'that which surrounds.' Now, the concept of the environment as the natural environment, especially as affected and jeopardized by human activity, plays an indispensable role in the field of environmental policy-so much so that it is incorporated into the name of the field.

Another example of an innovative concept that seems commonplace today is biodiversity. According to Yrjö Haila's chapter, this concept was invented by an ingenious group of biologists for a conference in 1986. The term caught on quickly, and now the broad concept is the focus of numerous policy efforts, and it is widely considered inherently good and worth protecting and preserving. A more contentious concept is the green economy, which only recently gained wide influence. As Daniel Fiorino explains in his chapter, the concept is a new approach to linking economic growth and environmental goals. However, some view it as an attempt to reinforce rich nation power while excluding the social element of sustainable development, while others view it as economically limiting. Despite the contention, the concept has been influential at such organizations as UNEP, OECD, and the World Bank, and it has found its way into policies in countries from Brazil to South Korea.

Two other workshops, the first in Ottawa, Ontario and the second in Warrenton, Virginia, preceded this upcoming workshop. At each workshop, the authors travel from far and wide to come together and discuss each chapter, as well as the overall direction and shape of the volume. This a collaborative process that unites scholars from fields including public administration, political science, and public management. The process not only helps unify the style and theme of the book, it also helps scholars refine their own views of each concept.

The project is led by James Meadowcroft of Carleton University in Canada, and by Daniel Fiorino, director of the Center for Environmental Policy at American University. The project is being funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, a federal research funding agency. There are authors from the United States (including one Dutch expatriate), Canada, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. After this workshop, the book will enter the publishing phase with MIT Press, and with an expected publishing date of September 2015.

The authors and chapters are as follows:

  • Daniel Fiorino (co-editor), American University, USA; Green Economy
  • James Meadowcroft (co-editor), Carleton University, Canada; Environment
  • Pete Andrews, UNC Chapel Hill, USA; Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Karin Backstrand, Lund University, Sweden; Critical Loads
  • Karen Baehler, American University, USA; Environmental Justice
  • Yrjö Haila, University of Tampere, Finland; Biodiversity
  • Michael Kraft, University of Wisconsin, USA; Environmental Risk
  • Oluf Langhelle, University of Stavanger, Norway; Sustainable Development
  • Judy Layzer, MIT, USA; Adaptive Management
  • Johannes Stripple, Lund University, Sweden; Environmental Security
  • Philip Vergragt, Clark University, USA; Sustainable Consumption