The rise of technocratic environmentalism: the United States, Antarctica, and the globalisation of the environmental impact statement

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Abstract

Environmental impact statements (EISs), and the related environmental impact assessments (EIAs) which precede them, have become central elements of environmental management, governance, and policy worldwide since their introduction in the United States in 1970. Assessing environmental impact has a particular force and centrality within modern Antarctic environmental management and governance too. This article investigates the ways in which the United States used EISs and EIAs in Antarctica between 1970 and 1982 – during their first decade of existence in US law and during a geopolitically and scientifically vibrant decade in Antarctic affairs – as a way of illuminating the broader conceptual and historical aspects of this central, though understudied, environmental governance tool and framework. We historicise and draw attention to the EIS – individually, as a regulatory genre, and as a genre that articulates regional, global and planetary environments – as highly influential and powerful documents demanding attention from environmental historians and historical geographers. We argue that the prominence of EISs in Antarctica arose because they appealed to top-down, process-oriented approaches favoured in Antarctic governance – a technocratic environmentalism – and because of their spatial elements, particularly their tendency to upscaling.

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Antonello, A., & Howkins, A. (2020). The rise of technocratic environmentalism: the United States, Antarctica, and the globalisation of the environmental impact statement. Journal of Historical Geography, 68, 55–64. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhg.2020.03.004

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