Beyond Participation in Louisiana's Coastal Planning

Authors: David O'Byrne*, Lund University
Topics: Coastal and Marine, Sustainability Science, Political Geography
Keywords: coastal restoration, politics of adaptation, political economy, participation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Muses, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Coastal planning in Louisiana aims to reduce net land-loss and damage from flooding, but it has been criticised on a number of fronts: for the potential negative impact of river diversions on fishing livelihoods; the effectiveness of certain ecological restoration techniques, and the equitability of protection planning. Many planners, non-profits, activists and academics argue for improved public participation in planning to address these criticisms. But, the ability of participation to do this is constrained by predetermined planning criteria and coloured by the agendas of powerful organisations. Aware of these limitations, activists, seeking to influence the planning process, usually perceive two options: a pragmatic approach, accepting the process as it is and trying to achieve the minimum possible within the defined scope, or a purist approach, where they refuse to participate until the process can guarantee their demands are met. Both of these approaches are limited in that they accept, or reject, participation on the terms of the planning regime. I propose a third possibility. Activists can remain indifferent to the participatory process per se, while using it as a forum for contention, to further some tactical concerns. Importantly, to be successful in challenging the hegemonic practice of planning, this approach needs to be deployed as part of a long-term political strategy articulated by an organised, self-conscious and self-confident movement. This paper is based on interviews, and participant and non-participant observation in the Louisiana Coast over 8 months in 2017 and 2018, supported by document analysis and academic literature review.

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