I recently wrote an essay on one of the most boring subjects known to man – the working difference between Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs). I handed it in & went to the pub. Now, with just about 2 pints in me, I’m going to follow the wise advice of Mitchell & Webb and try to make the world a better place 🙂
So I’ve got some Doritos; buckle up. Here’s the difference between EIAs & SEAs and why you should give a shit.
The big difference is scale. EIAs have been around for a while and were designed, and are perpetuated by, very very clipboard-y people who wear ‘architect’ shirts under their flourescent jackets in the middle of the day. They focus on making the development of a project – say, a new road or roadside adult superstore (what the hell’s going on there, btw?!) – as environmentally friendly as possible… but really quite late in the game when most plans are set in stone, wheels are in motion, and it’s up to the developers (ie. the ones who want to build their roadside adult superstore) to decide what they look at anyway.
Enter the sexy and charismatic SEA! Under the SEA (Haha! Under the Sea…) methodology, you get the clever environmental people in before all the development starts, and they’re given the legal free-reign to say “No, don’t do that, that’ll f*** everything up; here, do this instead” – and they’re saying that as the most educated, authoritative people who could possibly talk about our environment, with a focus not on the project in question, but on what’s actually freakin’ sustainable and good for everything. Basically, they have the legal right to say;
“No, actually you’re not more important than everything else in the whole freakin’ world, clean up your sodding act and then maybe we’ll be ok with you playing here.”
Here’s the special and crazy thing though – we need both these processes. SEA is awesome cos it’s all big-picture, shouts about alternatives to what corporate sell-outs want to do, and has aims to actually make this world live-in-able. EIA is there to make the best of facilitating the grandiose plans of the SEA, accepting that people are envrio-trashing buggers and trying to make the best of what’s feasible in an economy-driven society. For my essay, I made a Figure:
So they actually work together pretty well. Yes, it’s a lot of paper work and faff – but that’s because the only ones who are willing to enter a paper-work-and-faff driven system are the ones who actually like paper work and faff! And so we should all be deeply grateful to those dedicated few, with the figure-legend-driven balls to get stuck in to how this world actually works; in a governmental, legislationy kind of way. It’s dull as hell, and we owe a huge debt to those heroes who can actually cope with that – if not thrive on it – cos if it was left to the rest of us we’d be even more screwed than we currently are.