Environmental impact assessment Net environmental damage Offsets Externalization Restoration Culture of reparation Environmental ethics
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
Puig-Baguer, J. (Jordi); Villarroya-Ballarín, A. (Ana); Casas-Jericó, M. (María). "No net loss: a cultural reading of environmental assessment". Sustainability. 14 (1), 2022, 337
Global environmental quality decline builds up through innumerable decisions at many scales that cause damage to ecological and social values. Environmental assessment (EA) is a relevant decision-making framework in this sense. Besides its technical role, EA has a cultural side we should consider in the pursuit of sustainable societies. Despite its limited reach, EA exemplifies and confronts some cultural implicit stances that may unwittingly favor the overall decline of environmental quality, and limit the advancement and efficiency of EA. Many of these cultural traits are well known and easier to point to than to reverse, namely: (1) too tolerant-to-damage standards of environmental protection and equality; (2) inadequate criteria to assess environmental performance; (3) tolerance of the net loss of environmental quality; (4) confrontation between ecological and social values in decision-making; and (5) neglect of full, in-kind compensation of environmental impacts. EA may have not only a technical or procedural, but also a cultural role to play in confronting these sources of unsustainability. A lack of attention to the cultural causes of environmental impacts neglects the deepest roots of environmental damage. This commentary addresses the topics above and brings attention to their disregard for environmental values, which should guide EA towards increased levels of sustainability.