Geographies of Impact 1: Space, Place and the Politics of Environment Assessment

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Organizers: Alex Peimer, Mark Stoller
Chairs: Alex Peimer


This session is organized around the concept of “Impacts” in the context of environmental impact assessments (EIA). Environmental impact assessments are planning and decision-making tools that are used to permit economic development without “lasting significant impacts” (Bass et al. 2001; Noble, 2006). Environmental impact assessments are regularly undertaken by economic proponents to demonstrate that a proposed development project will have a minimal lasting environmental impact. Fundamental to this process is how proposed projects come to be defined, or not, as “impacts.”

Growing consciousness of the need to balance environmental protection with economic development situates impact assessment at the nexus of socio-economic processes. For scholars, these present opportunities to examine the conceptual and practical aspects of assessing impacts, and connecting these to debates of the politics of development. In North America, studies of environmental assessment, planning and management in relation to Indigenous rights shed light on contemporary settler state politics (Nadasdy, 2003). Others have viewed environmental assessment through the lens of social theory to draw broader conclusions about the political utility of impact assessment (Dokis, 2015). The full range of impact assessment and its implications for contemporary scholarship remain to studied.

This panel invites contributions on geographies of impact. We seek to bring together researchers that investigate the social, cultural, and political ecological dimensions of the environmental impact assessment process. We view the environmental impact assessment process as a technology of the state that reproduces narrow and convenient definitions of “environment”, “impact,” and “assessment” (cf. Scott 1998). These terms, we argue, justify a scope, scale, intensity, cost, and benefit of an environmentally-transformative development action. More than words, these are ideological framings that align with, and against, various socio-ecological material relations. To actually avoid significant environmental degradation, it is therefore necessary to analyze the political and ideological work that goes into defining the boundaries of these terms.

We invite research that relates to these overlapping and intersecting areas of concern:

The politics of justice: How does the environmental impact assessment process intersect with other legal claims, rights, and disputes? What environmental values are acknowledged in the process, and which are ignored or discredited?

The politics of practice: What political and ideological work is required to conduct an environmental impact assessment? How does applying for, preparing, reviewing, and issuing an assessment transform (politically, ideologically) those involved?

The politics of knowledge: What knowledge is considered a valid supporter of the assessment process, and which knowledge is discounted as not appropriate for evaluating the environmental impacts of economic development? What media or communication methods are acceptable and unacceptable, and how does this relate to power relations in the environmental impact assessment process?

The politics of scale: When are impacts recognized as cumulative, and for whom? What work goes into delimiting an impact as an impact? How are boundaries drawn around impacts to delimit their scale of consequence? For whom are these boundaries working, and who is disenfranchised by these boundaries?


Bass, R. E., Herson, A. I., & Bogdan, K. M. (2001). The NEPA Book. A Step-by Step Guide on How to Comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Dokis, C. (2015). Where the Rivers Meet: pipelines, participatory resource management, and Aboriginal-state relations in the Northwest Territories. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Nadasdy, P. (2003). Hunters and Bureaucrats: power, knowledge, and aboriginal-state relations in the southwest Yukon. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Noble, B. (2006). Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment: A Guide to Principles and Practice. Don Mills: Oxford University Press.

Scott, J. C. (1998). Seeing like a state: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. Yale University Press.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Alex W Peimer*, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Northeastern Illinois University, Impact Mapping: Maps, Problem Framing, and Environmental Impact Analysis 20 1:20 PM
Presenter Owen King*, University of the West of England, The democratic capacity of the National Environmental Policy Act: Mining, water and impact in southern Arizona, United States. 20 1:40 PM
Presenter Caitlynn Beckett*, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Containing and Caring for the Giant Mine through Environmental Assessment 20 2:00 PM
Presenter Dawn Hoogeveen*, University of British Columbia, Terre Satterfield, University of British Columbia, Value, Cultural Representation, and Environmental Impact Assessment 20 2:20 PM
Presenter Rosemary-Claire Collard*, Simon Fraser University, Jessica Dempsey*, University of Victoria, Woodland caribou at the intersection of political economy and extinction 20 2:40 PM

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