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Environmental Impacts of Direct Democracy

International Symposium on 21-23 March 2012 in Berlin

After the nuclear disaster of Fukushima and the discussion of related acceptance questions for renewable energy supply and power grid expansions, the call for more direct and comprehensive public involvement is heard. This includes, amongst others, instruments of direct democracy such as initiative and referendum.
The planned symposium shall address the question of environmental relevance of decisions being made by the use of direct democracy. With an increasing number of countries allowing for means of direct democracy and with a rising number of decisions being made at the ballot box the question what impacts these decisions have on the environment gains importance. Some of the questions at issue are:

  • Do decisions being made by means of direct democracy support the achievement of environmental policy objectives or do they in contrast sometimes even hinder?
  • What is the intention behind using means of direct democracy in decision-making on environmentally relevant topics (initiating/supporting, preventive)?
  • Does direct democracy lead to compromises which result in harmony amongst involved stakeholders but include tradeoffs and negative effects for the environment?

While a large body of research and literature exists on various aspects of direct democracy the effect on the environment has rarely been studied. Only few scholars in particular in the US have addressed certain aspects of this topic so far. However, a comprehensive focus on the possible “instrumental” and “educative” effects (Smith & Tolbert 2007) impacting the environment is missing.
Thus, the symposium is intended to provide a forum for exchange of scientists from various disciplines and countries discussing the relation of direct democracy and the environment and identifying promising future research hypotheses.

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