Reconciling Anthropocentrism and Biocentrism Through Adaptive Management: The Case of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and Public Risk Perception


Political Science and International Affairs

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Environmental policy issues often cannot be resolved owing to differences between anthropocentrists who adhere to neoclassical economic principles and biocentrists who argue in favor of a broad conception of sustainable development. This article examines the two perspectives in the context of radioactive waste management by presenting a case study involving public risk perception of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). WIPP is a mining program under-taken by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management to demonstrate the safe transportation and disposal of transuranic waste, a by-product of nuclear weapons production. The authors conclude that U.S. waste management programs such as WIPP can garner support only if a means for genuine, meaningful public participation is provided through adaptive management principles that “bridge the gap,” to the extent possible, between anthropocentric and biocentric perspectives.