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Palgrave Macmillan

Engineering Reality

The Politics of Environmental Impact Assessments and the Just Energy Transition in Colombia

  • Book
  • © 2023


  • Focuses on one highly contested environmental impact assessment of a large dam project in South Colombia
  • Proposes a new framework to assess energy projects
  • Demonstrates how environmental impact assessments are an essential tool for environmental governance

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Table of contents (13 chapters)

  1. Setting the Scene

  2. The EIA in the Making

  3. Engineering Reality


About this book

Engineering Reality offers unprecedented insights into the power of environmental impact assessments in engineering a reality favourable to any investment, focusing on the highly contested environmental study of a large hydroelectric dam project in southern Colombia, El Quimbo. The inclusion of environmental impact assessments to project proposals of environmental influence has been an undeniably important step to environmental governance in many countries around the world. Regarding the science behind these studies as objective and their results as the closest in representing reality, however, is misleading. Many activists and scholars made it their mission to uncover the limitations and work towards filling the gaps. Participation processes are considered key to any successful evaluation, but local knowledges and alternative perspectives are still often disqualified through more widely accepted scientific methods. Engineering Reality systematically walks through andaccounts for the shortcomings and injustices associated with environmental monitoring. It compares the reality as presented in the dam’s environmental impact study with first-hand accounts from the local and affected populations and observations gathered through two periods of fieldwork in 2012 (before) and 2016-17 (after the dam started operating). It explores how the knowledge of the study was used politically and to what end. Bringing the findings in conversation with the wider environmental impact assessment literature, the book proposes a new framework to assess energy projects -Energy Data Justice- that regards the environmental impact assessment a strictly political tool aimed at reaching the just energy transition in Colombia and worldwide.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Centre for Energy Ethics, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK

    Cornelia Helmcke

About the author

Cornelia Helmcke is Research Fellow at the Centre for Energy Ethics and Associate Lecturer in the School of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Engineering Reality

  • Book Subtitle: The Politics of Environmental Impact Assessments and the Just Energy Transition in Colombia

  • Authors: Cornelia Helmcke

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Social Sciences, Social Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-031-40642-3Published: 23 September 2023

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-031-40645-4Due: 24 October 2023

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-031-40643-0Published: 22 September 2023

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XVII, 290

  • Number of Illustrations: 4 b/w illustrations, 11 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: Environmental Policy, Sociology, general, Geography, general, Environmental Management

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