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Managing resources sustainably on the local level is essential for achieving the global goal of sustainable development. The combined impact of the small-scale activities - either constructive or destructive - undertaken by vast numbers of individuals will determine the fate of many resources and ecosystems, particularly in the Third World. The importance of people's participation in sustainable development has recently become increasingly acknowledged yet there is litte understanding of the multiple dimensions that such participation involves. Historically, great attention has been paid to persuading local communities to participate in externally-initiated environmental projects. Grassroots Environmental Action questions the viability of traditional management systems. The contributors analyse the social dynamics of local level resource use both in situations where encouragement and support is supplied from external agents, such as the state or international organizations, and where local communities are forced to formulate their own plans and activities in spite of neglect, resistance or even active external opposition.
The case studies of communities in Latin America, Asia and Africa focus on areas where local people are vigorous participators in the determination of their own future and that of their environment.