Over the past three decades, environmental impact assessment has been an important foundation for public and private development and an often powerful force in planning decisions. In development disputes, the interaction between communities and government and special interests and the private sector often occur in the context of the environmental impact assessment process, and shape the fabric of neighborhoods, cities and regions around the world, for example:
• the discovery of a historic burial ground results in redesigning a major municipal center;
• environmentally friendly design is incorporated into a new high-rise building;
• a dam is redesigned to protect endangered species;
• health effects of lead prompt new requirements for paint removal from bridges.
In this course students obtain essential skills to critically read, review and begin to conduct impact assessments to balance environmental, social and economic needs. Former students have gone on to positions in planning and other government agencies and the private sector in writing or reviewing EISs or using them in planning. Elements evaluated in actual impact statements include real estate, urban design, transportation, energy, natural resources, sustainable design, and social justice. New areas of concern will be incorporated as well, such as climate change, the use of renewable resources, and recovery and rebuilding following catastrophic events. Leaders and experts in environmental assessment from academia, government, and consulting firms will occasionally be invited as lecturers.