Informal knowledge processes: The underpinning for sustainability outcomes in EIA?

Alan J. Bond, Claudia V. Viegas, Christianne Coelho de Souza Reinisch Coelho, Paulo Maurício Selig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was originally tailored for restructuring rules and values regarding environmental protection, through interdisciplinary work. EIA has developed as a tool for decision-making for the implementation of projects which potentially pose significant environmental impacts. This paper reviews the sustainability and interdisciplinarity assumptions inherent in EIA. It illustrates through a case study of a proposed landfill extension in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, that these principles can arise more from informal knowledge processes than from legal ones. It can be shown that interdisciplinarity is often misunderstood as multidisciplinarity or simple knowledge clustering, and sustainability has no common definition amongst EIA practitioners, but that there predominates an understanding which delivers weak sustainability, driven primarily by social and economic goals. The conclusion is that EIA cannot achieve the original vision set out in the world's first legislation adopted in 1970 unless a learning-organization approach is taken whereby: the critical role of informal knowledge is recognized; informal knowledge is properly managed by EIA teams to engender a common understanding of sustainable development goals; interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary working practices are adopted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-13
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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