Fractured Consent: Public Participation in Environmental Complexity
Inman, Sarah Catherine
The 21st century marks an era of both progress and uncertainty. As our energy needs become greater, many people are concerned that development affects the environment in significantly negative ways. With an increasing amount of research and information, we might expect more participation around issues related to the environment. However, the existence of competing ideologies has led to uncertainty and distrust about the scientific credibility of environmental impact statements, especially those related to the oil and gas industries. A case characterized by uncertainty is decision-making around the use of hydraulic fracturing as a method of natural gas extraction.To address this uncertainty and complexity in human-environment relationships, there is a need for more precise, non-partisan research to inform environmental decision-making. New participatory tools, such as open source mapping and GPS-enabled sensors, allow citizens to generate and share local, ground-level data that is not only useful to the policymaking process, but also, more transparent to the general public. This form of data collection provides a way to combine local-level research data to location-based information, thereby affording a more in-depth understanding of the sources of pollution and how they relate to the proximity of the energy industry. To explore these possibilities, this thesis addresses the following questions: How do citizens engage in environmental decision-making in the context of rapid energy development? What accounts for failure and success in participatory measures? How can technology be used to contribute to scientific discussion about environmental issues? Subsequently, what are some of the barriers and biases of the uses of such tools?
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