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Posted on October 5th, 2012, by

The modern society is extremely concerned with environmental problems. The pollution of the environment has become one of the major threats to the life of people and survival of many species worldwide. At the same time, it is human activities which provoke a considerable deterioration of the environmental situation. In such a context, the protection of environment and the minimization of the negative impact of human activities on the environment is one of the major concerns of people today. On the other hand, it is obvious that without strategic environmental policies the elimination of threats to the environment and the ongoing deterioration of the environmental situation is practically impossible. In fact, people need to develop skills of strategic environmental assessment in order to adequately assess their own impact on the environment and current environmental problems which may influence their own life as well as the life of species living in the nearby area. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the study “Community-based approaches to strategic environmental assessment: Lessons from Costa Rica”¯, conducted by A.J. Sinclair, L. Sims, and H. Spaling, in which researchers attempted to find out efficient approaches to the strategic environmental assessment. The study actually revealed the fact that the role of the community in the strategic environmental assessment can be hardly underestimated since people can understand their environmental problems and assess the current environmental situation even if they do not have a strong scientific background.

The research focuses on the application of the community-based approach to the strategic environmental assessment. The subjects of the study were Costa Rican communities which researchers involved in the experiment. It was important to understand whether local communities could conduct the strategic environmental assessment or it was the domain of professionals working in the field of the environment protection solely. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that the strategic environmental assessment is extremely important for the development of an efficient environmental policy. Due to such assessment it is possible to understand the major threats to the environment and the impact of humans on the environment, while often people are unaware of their negative impact on their environment.

In such a context, the use of the community-based approach was particularly significant because the communities, which were involved in the study produced a negative impact on their environment. To put it more precisely, the development of local agriculture proved to have a destructive impact on the environment. The use of conventional methods of farming led to the exhaustion of local natural resources. In fact, the entire study aimed at the involvement of local communities in the strategic environmental assessment and, what is even more important, this study and assessment were interactive. In other words, local communities closely communicated with professionals working in the field of the environment protection. In such a way, professionals got an excellent opportunity to increase the environmental awareness of local communities through informing them about potential threats and risks of their agricultural activities in relation to the environment and the negative impact of their activities on nature. At the same time, local communities have learned to better understand consequences of their traditional social and economic activities, which they have taken for granted, but which proved to be quite harmful for their environment.

In this respect, it was particularly important that members of local communities could not only learn some information from professionals but they also learned to analyze and assess environmental changes that occur in their communities under the impact of their activities. In such a way, they developed skills of the strategic environmental assessment and they could experience that they did influence their environment. In fact, it is hardly probable that they could reveal their negative impact on their environment without the strategic environmental assessment. At the same time, they could not apply the strategic environmental assessment without the assistance of professionals.

In such a way, it is obvious that the community-based approach can be and is effective if it is applied within communities under the guidance of professionals working in the field of the environment protection. In fact, this is the major conclusion made by the researchers in the result of their study. In addition, they concluded that the use of the community-based approach is highly prospective in terms of the strategic environmental assessment and it can be used for the development of programs focused on the sustainable development of communities and local environment.

Obviously, it is hardly possible to underestimate the significance of this study for the development of the strategic environmental assessment and efficient environmental policies at large. To put it more precisely, it is obvious that current environmental problems cannot be solved without the involvement of local communities. On the one hand, local communities often represent a serious threat to the environment because their economic activities can be extremely harmful to the environment. On the other hand, local communities can contribute to the environment protection through the strategic environment assessment and monitoring of the current environmental situation, including the assessment of factors, including human activities, and their impact on the environment. In such a way, local communities can identify major threats to the environment and change their economic activities in order to minimize their negative impact on the environment. In addition, local communities can influence policies of large corporation which may be located in the neighborhood and they can pollute environment. In such a situation, the counteraction of local communities can be encouraged by their strategic environmental assessment.

However, prior to the research conducted by A.J. Sinclair, L. Sims, and H. Spaling it was unclear whether local communities are able to conduct the strategic environmental assessment. In fact, it could be possible to presuppose that local communities, especially in remote areas could hardly be aware of environmental problems and they could not conduct a reliable and efficient strategic environmental assessment. In such a situation, the study conducted by A.J. Sinclair, L. Sims, and H. Spaling proved the fact that local communities can be and should be involved in the strategic environmental assessment. The researchers proved the fact that the scientific guidance and supervision from the part of professionals can contribute to the efficient application of the community-based approach to the strategic environmental assessment.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the study “Community-based approaches to strategic environmental assessment: Lessons from Costa Rica”¯, conducted by A.J. Sinclair, L. Sims, and H. Spaling is very significant for the development of the strategic environmental assessment and involvement of local communities in this process. In fact, it is only with the help of local communities professionals can assess and solve environmental problems efficiently.

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