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Incorporating Food Security into Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment



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Adequate consideration for health in strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is important for effective and sustainability-driven SEA practice. Food security is fundamental to human health and is threatened, in part, by industrial development, yet is given little to no attention in environmental assessment (EA) discourse despite its importance to health and sustainability. Regional strategic environment assessment (RSEA) is an evaluation process that informs strategic decision-making related to natural resources extraction and development and it is well-positioned to integrate food security considerations in environmental governance. This study explores how food security may be effectively incorporated into RSEA conducted for natural resource development in Canada and internationally. This study proceeded in two phases and used standard qualitative research methods. In phase one, semi-structured interviews with food security experts were conducted. This was followed by inductive thematic data analysis to identify key criteria and requirements for effective food security assessment that align with RSEA process demands and constraints. This set the stage for phase two, which consisted of a document analysis of 17 Canadian SEAs performed for offshore petroleum exploration projects. Phase two adopted a deductive thematic data analysis to identify latent and indirect consideration for food security within the SEA reports, then further evaluated the SEAs using magnitude scales to quantify the level and means of consideration for food security. No direct evidence of consideration for food security was found in any of the 17 SEAs analyzed. Many of the shortcomings of practice were consistent with the general shortcomings of SEA practice, previously identified in the literature. These included limited consideration for the socio-economic environment in comparison to the biophysical environment, and inadequate public participation measures. Some evidence of indirect consideration for food security was identified in the 17 SEAs analyzed. When present, these practices generally aligned with the recommendations for food security evaluation established in phase one of the research. Thus, the findings suggest that RSEA has a solid foundation to fully incorporate evaluation of food security. The product of this thesis is a framework aimed to guide adequate and effective consideration and assessment of food security in RSEA processes, based on food security expert recommendations and grounded in the state of SEA practice. It is anticipated that the framework will provide a valuable tool for RSEA practitioners in the future, contributing to efforts to improve both RSEA effectiveness and food security in areas affected by natural resource development programs.



food security, regional, strategic, environmental impact assessment, strategic environmental assessment, natural resource development



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Geography and Planning




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