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The motives for accepting or rejecting waste infrastructure facilities. Shifting the focus from the planners' perspective to fairness and community commitment

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In environmental planning, decision making on land use for infrastructure increasingly causes conflicts, particularly with regard to contested waste facilities. Risk management and perceptions have become crucial. Empirical investigations of these conflicts brought clear advancement in the fields of environmental psychology, geography and risk research. However, in planning and policy design the dominant one-dimensional approach among planners remains, and the approach to address resistance to facility siting is not firmly founded in empirical evidence. Instead, it uses simplified assumptions about the motives of opponents, seeing residents as merely protecting their 'turf' and exclusively focusing on their own 'backyard'. This paper presents the findings of an empirical study on risk perceptions, based on a large-scale survey in six decision-making processes for different types of waste facilities. A scale is developed to measure the planners' perspective of the motives for opposition. The analysis shows that the crucial factors in perceived risk perceptions are not personality traits (e.g. selfishness, economic rationality) but perceived environmental injustice, fairness of the process, and personal commitment to others. Continual thinking in terms of 'backyard' motives disregards the socially motivated norms for equity, fairness, and commitment to others and may easily undermine co-operative behaviour.
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Keywords: NIMBY ('not-in-my-back-yard') scale; community commitment; equity; procedural fairness; risk perceptions; waste infrastructure

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, Planning and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2: National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Centre for Environmental Health Research, Bilthoven, The Netherlands

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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