Perspectives on the nature of environmental planning

Authored by: Noel Castree

The Routledge Companion to Environmental Planning

Print publication date:  August  2019
Online publication date:  July  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138894808
eBook ISBN: 9781315179780
Adobe ISBN:


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Environmental planning is an eminently practical affair. However, there is more to it than public consultations, cost-benefit analyses, regulations, procedures, monitoring of planning outcomes, and so on. Underpinning all acts of environmental planning are concepts and categories that describe the objects or places of concern: a wetland, a stretch of coast, a unique habitat or a coral reef, say. These concepts and categories are easily taken for granted but, upon closer inspection, are both constructed and political rather than neutral mirrors that reflect the world in language. This chapter examines two elemental categories, nature and environment, both of which underpin a wide range of environmental planning activities worldwide. Drawing upon 30 years of scholarship across a range of social science disciplines, the chapter illustrates the importance and value of a ‘denaturalising’ approach to the discourse, and consequent actions, involved in all environmental planning. Three cases are presented, the analysis of which reveals that the objects and places that environmental planners focus on are by no means given, their ‘reality’ being the result of acts of culturally specific designation and normalisation over time. By offering a constructive critique of misrecognition and hypostatisation the chapter calls for reflexivity ‘all the way down’, reaching to even the basic vocabulary of environmental planning. While the arguments of the chapter are well established, the argument is that they remain relevant, today and tomorrow.

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