Sociology and Environmental Impact Assessment
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The paper indicates how a critical sociology could contribute to environmental impact assessment (EIA). It argues how sociologists must become involved in evaluating the EIA process itself. Topics examined include: how EIA excludes and frames social issues; why social science should precede natural science; the social construction of impact science; bias and the circulation of EIA consultants; and fairness when talking in public hearings. The author proposes an activist role for sociologists. Many EIA conventions described in this paper are examples of knowledge as a discursive source of power. Applied to EIA hearings, conversation analysis and discourse analysis could pry open conventions and suggest tactics for lay people, minorities and women to overcome obstacles, and make the hearing process more fair. The role for critical sociology in EIA that author has outlined is not neutral, or cloaked in claims to objectivity. It begins from the premise that knowledge is socially constructed.