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Being reasonable: How do rationalist assumptions affect the treatment of the environment in decision-making processes?

Smyth, Caer ORCID: 2020. Being reasonable: How do rationalist assumptions affect the treatment of the environment in decision-making processes? PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Public local inquiries are a common mechanism for public participation in the UK planning system. They frequently address environmental concerns, and as such are a route through which the public participate in environmental decision-making. Public participation in environmental decision-making is a key principle in environmental law; one might then assume that forums for participatory decision-making such as public local inquiries are well-equipped to hear environmental arguments. What if this is not the case? What if embedded assumptions that shape the way we argue are reproduced in these decision-making processes? This thesis explores how rationalist assumptions might affect participatory decision-making processes and in particular limit people’s ability to advocate for the environment in these processes. It employs socio-legal empirical research methods to investigate these issues. Data was collected through ethnographic fieldnotes and interviewing. The research fieldwork site is a public local inquiry in Wales, the inquiry into the M4 Corridor around Newport, or M4CAN inquiry. The scheme under consideration at the inquiry was a major infrastructure project with a high economic cost and significant environmental implications. Drawing on socio-legal ethnographic data, this thesis proposes that human-nature dualism in rationalist philosophy, its favouring of compartmentalised argument and its prioritising of abstracted argument adversely impacted the treatment of the environment at the M4CAN inquiry. The thesis further proposes that rationalist assumptions and their impact in legal decision-making processes make it harder to account for the intrinsic value of the environment, and that recognising the intrinsic value of the environment is essential to ensuring that legal decision-making processes have due regard to the environment. It proposes that meaningful public participation in environmental decision-making can serve as a mechanism through which intrinsic environmental value is better recognised.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Law
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
K Law > KD England and Wales
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ethnographic research* Socio-legal studies* Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015* Rationalist philosophy* Empirical legal research* Planning law* Public local inquiries* Habermas* Public participation* Environmental justice* Environmental law* New materialism* Expertise* Environmental value Administrative law Highway inquiries Legal epistemologies Legal geographies Adversarialism Anthropocentrism Site visit Intrinsic value Instrumental value Access to justice in environmental matters
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 13 October 2020
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2022 09:23

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