Conceptual and Methodological Advances
Edited by Frank Vanclay and Ana Maria Esteves
Chapter 10: Land Use Change
Jacki Schirmer Introduction Social impact assessment (SIA) has traditionally focused on the assessment of planned interventions implemented over relatively limited space and time. Since its inception, however, SIA has been applied to an ever-increasing range of situations which also include assessing the impacts of diffuse changes occurring across large geographic areas and over long time periods. The focus of SIA has also shifted to emphasize participatory, collaborative approaches to assessing impacts rather than more data-driven, technocratic approaches (Vanclay, 2006). Rural land use change is a typical example of the new terrain to which SIA is being applied. Changes in rural land use, such as a shift from using land for traditional agriculture to establishing tree plantations or building residential housing, occur over decades, in a patchwork fashion, and have diffuse and contended impacts. These land use changes are not generally planned interventions, but ad hoc social trends that result in significant social change without necessarily being the result of specific policies or projects. This raises important questions for SIA practitioners. Can methods developed principally to assess the impact of single projects implemented at a single point in space and in time be applied to more diffuse and unplanned changes such as rural land use change? How can methods be modified to successfully assess social impacts in these increasingly common applications of SIA? This chapter discusses some of the methodological challenges presented when assessing the social impacts of diffuse, unplanned changes, using the example of land use change to tree plantations....
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