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CONSULTATION FATIGUE

It would be foolish to pretend that environmental decisions are easy. The whole ecosystem is interconnected in complex and strange ways - a concept that probably derives from James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis (It looked weird when he first put it forward).


But to look at only one current example, the consultation on the Marine Bill (which eventually led to the Marine and Coastal Access Act) exceeded 250 pages. Only an eco- geek would tackle it. And there are dozens of consultations going on all the time. If the proposers try to simplify, we complain about lack of evidence (especially scientific data); but if they provide it, we complain that there is too much.


Perhaps we ought to learn from David Mackay, whose brilliant book “Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air!”  is widely acclaimed as an example of how to present a very complex argument. (It is further explained on the Climate Change page)The key attributes are


  1. A brief very easily readable summary
  2. A more detailed development of the argument based on numbers which, at this stage are asserted to be true
  3. An explanation of each number used
  4. A set of literature references


If you ever hear  a phrase like “One of the most important…..” you can be forgiven for doubting that the data exists. Remember that sites are designated because species are threatened; and designated because they are abundant too. It is all most contusing.


An additional problem is that only the large NGOs and consultancies have the skill and resources to participate in all the consultations (Organisations like RSPB maintain an office in Brussels). Inevitably this means that they shout loudest and the advice given to government is inevitable weighted. The diffuse mass of the public never finds a voice unless there is a successful twitter or facebook campaign. It is difficult to know what can be done to avoid the problem, and it has to be said that MMO are trying their best with regard to the consultations on Marine Planning.

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