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Renegotiating the Environment

Renegotiating the Environment

The power of politics

By Jenny Stewart and Grant Jones


Environmental managers, scientists and activists are accustomed to seeing politics in a negative light. Politics equals self-interest, which means the power structures, assumptions and behaviours which, many would argue, are the reason for our seeming inability to deal with a range of environmental issues, including the toughest questions of salinity, land degradation, and coastal development.

The authors of Renegotiating the Environment argue that, rather than seeing the politics of self-interest as an impediment, managers should learn to acknowledge, understand and use politics to generate better outcomes. Better environmental governance will be achieved by a process of evolution rather than by imposition of changes in response to conventional diagnostic and analytical frameworks.

But rather than just waiting for this evolution to progress of its own accord, Stewart and Jones argue that it can be pushed forward by understanding of politics that allows for the energy and interests of groups and individuals to be harnessed rather than stifled, in order to achieve more consensual (and hence more sustainable) solutions.

For managers, scientists and even for activists, this is a new and different way of approaching environmental problems. Renegotiating the Environment supports its case through detailed case studies and theoretical analysis as well as offering practical guidance for managers interested in implementing governance-based responses to environmental problems.


Major Themes

Why 'renegotiate' the environment?
How does politics change environmental policy?
The processes of environmental politics
Institutional theory
What makes institutions change?
What is 'governance'?
Environmental governance
How do we know it works?

Sharing Water: Towards River Governance

The structure of conflict
Managing rivers
Wildlife and the Macquarie Marshes
Wine, mines and salinity in the Hunter River
Pollution and the Hawkesbury-Nepean River
Comparing the three outcomes
Policy capacity

The Green Battlefield: Regional Forest Agreements in Three States

What are Regional Forest Agreements?
New South Wales - a green win?
Tasmania - an industry win
Western Australia - the RFA that collapsed
Comparing the three arguments
Policy ideas
A balanced result?

Whose City, Whose View?

M2 toll road - the juggernaut
Sydney airport
Byron Bay
Cities and the environment

What Works?

Evaluating the effectiveness of conflict resolution
Consensus as a measure of success
Rating the case studies
Making sense of the case studies
Political support
Productive pluralism
Policy learning
The conditions for environmental governance

Towards Environmental Governance

Creating environmental governance
Political management
Influencing power
Promoting accountability
Conflict resolution
Civilising conflict
Create and disseminate technical information that will enhance quality and focus of the debate
Translate' scientific information into concepts that can be understood
Select targets that are policy-relevant
Find practical links between outcomes and what people can do
Management for governance: a hypothetical example
The relationship between environmental governance and environmental management

Implications for Public Sector Management

Constraints and limitations
How good is governance for the environment?
The scope for practising governance
Bureaucratic culture and accountability
Advantages of governance
Social equity
Change management
The limitations of politics?
Politics and governance

Table of Cases/ Table of Statutes/ Index


This book is a 'must read' for anyone involved in natural resources management: politicians, public servants and community leaders, and every student of natural resources, agriculture and the environment.
It is a refreshingly honest analysis of the roles that politics, power, leadership, governance and conflict play in decision making. Importantly, it takes real case studies and highlights the lessons learnt, giving practical suggestions about what works and what doesn't.

Leith Boully, Chair, Community Advisory Council, Murray-Darling Basin Commission

There is now scientific consensus about what we need to do to restore our ecosystems, and in particular our rivers, to sustainability. The challenge is how do we apply this knowledge and understanding to produce the outcomes that are needed. Renegotiating the Environment is an original book, with some important messages about how to implement change.

Professor Peter Cullen, Environmentalist of the Year 2001, Chair, Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists

Renegotiating the Environment provides a refreshingly sensible, persuasive and informed perspective on environmental management, policy and politics.
By perceiving within environmental conflict the opportunity for creative environmental governance, Stewart and Jones offer managers, policy-makers and activists the prospect of finding avenues for negotiating positive outcomes.
Nine compelling case studies, encompassing aspects of water management, forestry and urban development, give the analysis a thoroughly practical and contemporary flavour.  At the same time, the book also gently but convincingly challenges common philosophical perceptions of environmental conflict.
Renegotiating the Environment is clearly written and is reassuringly uncluttered by ideological presumptions.  I recommend it strongly to managers, practitioners, activists on all sides of the debate, researchers, students and engaged citizens - indeed to anybody interested in moving forward towards an environmentally sustainable Australia.

Professor Andrew Parkin, Editor, Australian Journal of Political Science

What happens when a mining company wants to discharge millions of litres of salty water into a river from which farmers draw water for irrigation? This and other scenarios greet the reader in the opening paragraph of this book. Straight away the reader is assured that current and relevant case studies will be the focus of this book.
The authors put forward strong arguments that politics can work for the good of the environment. …
Any teacher who is teaching about issues in the geography classroom can draw a great deal from this book. … A most useful teacher reference.

Interaction (Geography Teachers Assocn of Vic Jnl), Vol 32(1), March 2004

A progressive and thought-provoking book pitched at influencing the contemporary arena of environmental negotiation in Australia. It is good to see an accessible, case-study based title that tries to assist our progress on key environmental issues by aiming to improve the efficiency of the critical political mechanics which often have to come before practical solutions.

ECOS No 118, January-March 2004

The authors of Renegotiating the Environment argue that, rather than seeing politics as an impediment, managers should learn to acknowledge, understand and use politics to generate better outcomes. They argue that environmental conflict creates opportunities for creative environmental governance, a new kind of management.

A total of nine detailed case studies are analysed to offer practical guidance for implementing governance-based responses to environmental problems. …

Stewart and Jones argue that more consensual (and hence more sustainable) solutions can be achieved by understanding the politics of self-interest that allows the energy and interests of groups and individuals to be harnessed rather than stifled. Their analytical documentation of nine examples demonstrates that negotiation of interests and balancing values is at the heart of making sustainable decisions.

Renegotiating the Environment is a new and different way of approaching environmental problems. It is a ‘must read’ for anyone involved in natural resources: politicians, public servants, managers, scientists, community leaders, activists and students of planning and environment.

Claudia Baldwin, Aust Journal of Environmental Management, Dec 2004


Published October 2003
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862874732
Australian RRP $39.95
International Price $35.00
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