Environmental planning and decision making take into consideration the needs of society and the natural environment when developing an area. Learn how environmental planning and decision making are carried out to create sustainable outcomes.

The Environment

You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.’ This is true for any personal goal you are trying to reach, whether it be planning your exercise routine so you can finish your first 5K race or planning your schedule so you have enough time to study for, and ace, your college exam.

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Planning is also important when it comes to protecting the environment, so it is sustainable for generations to come. However, environmental planning and decision making have many considerations because of the complexities of nature and the varying needs and desires of society. In this lesson, we will explore the different aspects and considerations that must go into environmental planning and environmental decision making.

Environmental Planning and Components

Environmental planning is the process of evaluating how social, political, economic and governing factors affect the natural environment when considering development. The goal of environmental planning is to come up with a win-win situation for society and the environment. With successful environmental planning, society wins by being able to use the area in productive ways, and the environment wins by being able to sustain itself for future generations.

There are three components of environmental planning that must be considered. First, is the current status of the natural environment. This component will take into consideration the existing state of the area to be developed. This may include evaluating the existing uses, features and natural resources of the land, as well as existing infrastructure and buildings.

The second component of environmental planning is vision. This involves setting goals and measurable objectives and takes into consideration the rules, regulations, laws and needs of society. The third component is implementation. This involves putting the vision into action and considers the materials, personnel and technology that may be needed to carry out the plan.

Environmental planning is a complex study because it not only has to consider the complexities of the natural environment but also the needs and desires of humans. Therefore, environmental planners need to understand the human decision-making process to best manage the relationship between humans and the environment.

Environmental decision making can be defined as the process of evaluating the ways humans go about making choices that impact the natural environment. How individuals or groups decide to use energy, natural resources and even outdoor recreational areas are all part of the planning process. So, we see that environmental planning and decision making go hand-in-hand, and because human needs and desires change over time, the process must constantly evolve.

Examples of Environmental Planning

Let’s look at a couple of examples of environmental planning and decision making that show how useful the process can be. Let’s say that a developer wants to build three homes on a lot that borders a river. Through environmental planning, it is revealed that one of the homes is located within the floodplain. The plan for the home’s location is altered to move it out of the floodplain and the original space is used for a community bike path and an area for natural growth. This plan benefits the community and the natural environment.

Another example of environmental planning is industrial symbiosis, which is the process by which industries share services, energy and by-products to decrease costs and improve the environment. An environmental planner may evaluate the current status of an industrial park and note that it has a power plant, an oil refinery and a fish farm. From this evaluation, a vision of how these plants could work together is formed.

It may be decided that treated wastewater from the oil refinery can be used by the power plant as cooling water. Excess heat produced by the power plant can be used to provide heat for the local fish farm. This vision is then implemented, resulting in lower operating costs and environmental benefits.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Environmental planning is the process of evaluating how social, political, economic and governing factors affect the natural environment when considering development. The goal of environmental planning is to come up with a win-win situation for society and the environment. There are three components of environmental planning. First, is the current status of the natural environment. The second component is the vision of what will best serve society and the environment, and the third component is implementation of the plan.

Environmental decision making can be defined as the process of evaluating the ways humans go about making choices that impact the natural environment. Environmental planning and decision making work together to create sustainable outcomes. Examples of environmental planning and decision making include evaluating flood plains before development of an area and industrial symbiosis, which is the process by which industries share services, energy and by-products to decrease costs and improve the environment.

Learning Outcomes

After the conclusion of this video lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define environmental planning and its components
  • Identify the need for environmental decision making
  • Understand the positives of industrial symbiosis