What is an Environmental Impact Assessment?
An environmental impact assessment refers to an evaluation of the possible positive or negative impact that an individual or entity may pose on the environment.
This assessment, analyzes the various natural, social and economic aspects of human and business interaction with the environment; in the most simplistic of terms, an environmental impact assessment inspects how our actions, both good and bad, affect our planet’s environmental system.
What is the Purpose of an Environmental Impact Assessment?
The purpose of an environmental impact assessment is to ensure that decision makes and individuals in general, consider the ensuing environmental impacts when deciding how or whether to proceed with an initiative or business project.
The International Association for Impact Assessments, the organization responsible for conducting such evaluations, defines the procedure as “the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decision being taken and commitments made.”
An environmental impact assessment is unique because the procedure does not require an adherence to a predetermined environmental outcome, but rather the test will require decision makers to account and inspect their own personal environmental values and how their decisions will ultimately impact the environment.
Using this relationship, their personal values and the impact of their decisions on the environment, the decision maker, under an environmental impact assessment is then asked to justify those decisions or procedures in light of an assortment of environmental studies and public comments directed towards the potential impacts of their intended mission.
History of Environmental Impact Assessments:
An environmental impact assessment was first used during the 1960s as part of a rational decision making process. The assessment involved a technical evaluation that would lead to an objective decision making process.
The environmental impact assessment, as a general evaluating procedure, proved effective in how decision making bodies carried out their desired functions. As a result of this success, the environmental impact assessment was enacted as a piece of legislation in the United States as part of the National Environmental Polict Act of 1969.
The process has since evolved as it has been increasingly used in the majority of developed nations throughout the world. The environmental impact assessment, when used today, is primarily delivered as an aiding tool rather than a decision making tool.
This transformation has occurred as a result of our evolved knowledge towards our interactions with the environment; no longer do developed nations attempt to justify their actions in regards to their environment, but instead, we aim to find the most environmentally-friendly means to carry-out such actions.