The Troubling Logic of Inclusivity in Environmental Consultations
Inclusivity is widely considered a requirement of defensible environmental risk consultations and is often either mandated or recommended to help ensure attention to stakeholders’ diverse views. Experience suggests the opposite: the emphasis on an inclusive consultation process often makes it impossible for decision makers to listen carefully to stakeholders and for citizens’ views to influence the design and choice of proposed actions. This paper briefly reviews the promise of environmental risk consultations before outlining several of the more serious problems associated with an emphasis on inclusivity: long lists of undifferentiated concerns, facts tainted by stakeholders’ perspectives and worldviews, little access to clarifying dialogue or tests of expertise, few opportunities to scrutinize knowledge quality, avoidance of controversial issues, and an overwhelming abundance of information. As a result, the promotion of inclusivity often serves as a convenient excuse for decision makers to silence citizens by substituting quantity for quality, breadth for depth, and an adversarial approach for dialogue and informed understanding.