Uniting Science and Democracy: A Comparison of Public Participation Models in Natural Resource Management

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper


Given current environmental crises, many citizens have taken personal concern towards the issues and seek to become involved in the solutions. The integration of democracy and knowledge production plays an important role in this situation, in order to include the values and interests of citizens in the traditionally scientifically driven world of natural resource management. Public participation in natural resource management has manifested in a variety of ways given societal and environmental circumstances, as well as political legislation of nations. Emergent models bear many similarities and difference, which creates the opportunity to understand how models can learn from one another. This research studies two cases of public participation in natural resource management, with two different models of participation: Ontario, Canada with a primarily top-down participation model, and the communities around Lake Tämnaren, Sweden, with their bottom-up model. This research seeks to understand if the models of participation affect the outcomes of the projects and how democracy plays a role in the different models. To compare these two cases, interviews were conducted (12 participants in Canada and 6 participants in Sweden), along with field observations and document analysis. Results of the research indicate the models of participation have different challenges and advantages to once another, but the main obstacle in both scenarios relates to the support in terms of finances and resources available to the projects. The research concludes there is a need for bottom-up approaches to public participation in order to sustain deliberative democracy in the projects, but with top-down support there is much more immediate action taken towards solving issues at hand.

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