The use of science in environmental policy:A case study of the Regional Forest Agreement process in Western Australia
CSA Journal Division
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science / Centre for Ecosystem Management
This paper explores the notion of pluralism as it relates to the involvement of science in processes of environmental policy formulation. In particular, it focuses attention on the dominance of normal science within the Australian debate on commercial forest use, management, and conservation. It presents case study information from the Western Australian Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) process, a policy initiative designed to end a long-running conflict over public forestland. It then analyzes the use of science within this political process, along with the respective impacts of different voices within science on the RFA outcomes. The case study data highlight the vulnerability of reductionist science within complex political debates and support arguments for a widening of the scientific basis of policy processes to include alternative ways of understanding nature-society relations. The paper contends that such a broadening will make science not only more robust, but also more valuable as a problem-solving tool in future decision-making processes on land use, conservation, and broader sustainability questions. It also considers the obstacles facing pluralism.