Negotiation and confrontation: Environmental policymaking through consensus

David N. Pellow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This is a study of activists who employ an environmental decision-making model whose aim is to move beyond traditionally adversarial natural resource conflicts toward “consensus.” Activists are ostensibly allowed equal footing with industrialists and state actors in an innovative environmental policy model called consensus based decision making (CBDM). Environmentalists are choosing the CBDM strategy because it provides (1) a new definition of policymaking and power sharing, (2) new openings for public participation, and (3) the opportunity to launch a sus tained conflict-style agenda within a collaborative framework. CBDM affords activists greater access to the political system than traditional grass-roots approaches to social change such as litigation and public protest. Thus with CBDM, activists were able to subsume many traditional confrontational practices within the larger col laborative framework. CBDM is not without its pitfalls, however. But the darker side of this decision - making model only reinforces the need for confrontational prac tices on the part of environmentalists. I argue that this mixture of negotiation and confrontation constitutes an innovative form of resistance against powerful companies and state institutions. This study reveals that environmentalists are becoming more sophisticated in their efforts to protect local communities and natural resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-203
Number of pages15
JournalSociety and Natural Resources
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Connflict organizing
  • Consensus-based decision making
  • Environmental organization
  • Infrapolitics
  • Multistakeholder


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