chapter  28
27 Pages

Sea Theory and Research: an Analysis of the Early Discourse

Since the inception of strategic environmental assessment (SEA), scholars and

practitioners have devoted much attention to the development of techniques to

facilitate its implementation in the upstream decision contexts that characterize

strategic initiatives. As such, significant attention has been given to

documenting practical experiences with case studies, establishing so-called

‘best practice’ guidelines, and making comparisons of SEA implementation

rules across different nations. In contrast, despite regular calls to that end, very

little attention has been paid to the conceptual development of SEA (Cashmore,

2004; Cashmore et al, 2004). While SEA has drawn significant lessons from the

experience with project-level environmental impact assessment (EIA), it faces a

number of fundamentally different challenges at higher levels of decision-

making. In particular, uncertainty and value conflict associated with

developments ranging from transport planning to energy policy indicate that

the knowledge and techniques traditionally relied upon to ‘solve’ environmental

problems are no longer adequate to the task (Wallington, 2003). These

challenges suggest that SEA must move beyond the ‘impact assessment mindset’

(Bina, 2003), which in turn indicates the need for renewed attention to be paid

to the theoretical development of SEA.