Monthly Archives: January 2012

Environmentalists Get Down to Earth

Jan 18, 2012

Here at RESOLVE we’ve been talking about a recent story (17 December 2011) in The New York Times  “Environmentalists Get Down to Earth” that talked about new leadership in the conservation movement and the evolution of environmental strategies.  Here’s what we’re thinking, read the article, what do you think?

“In “Environmentalists Get Down to Earth” we’re missing an opportunity.  Conflict and tension generate ink and can be useful but our new generation of environmental leaders is capable of doing more. First, they’ll need to foster hope that something concrete can be achieved. Hope inspires action. But it withers unless it is fed by concrete, achievable solutions. Therefore, second, they’ll design and apply pragmatic expertise.  This is the essential “back of the box” of brownies, the hard work of rolling up sleeves and engaging on the practical and policy details, referred to and then largely dismissed in the story. There is simply no substitute for the pragmatic application of expertise—whether it’s negotiating a policy agreement or designing new “green” technologies Third, they’ll build unexpected coalitions. They’ll walk in someone else’s shoes to find a way forward. Leaders in all sectors should resist the temptation dig in and out-shout the other side. In an era of political fragmentation it’s the art of collaborative problem solving that will be the true test of leadership on climate and other issues. Otherwise advocacy breeds isolation, gridlock and cynicism. Dig below the surface of any environmental achievement and you will find great collaborative leaders—whether they get public credit or not – because they are focused on solutions, working the “back of the box,” and building partnerships.  Advocacy without collaborative leadership and solutions breeds gridlock and cynicism. If you have doubts look at recent progress on food safety, so called “conflict minerals,” and preventing, reducing, and addressing past harms from exposure to chemicals to see this leadership at work today.”

Stephen D’Esposito, President, RESOLVE

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RESOLVE acknowledged for outstanding facilitation of Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC)

Jan 10, 2012

“Good facilitators are priceless,” says John Thorson, retired judge and former chair of the ABA Water Resources Committee, in the most recent issue of the ABA’s Section on Environment Energy and Resources (SEER) Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee newsletter. Describing the Missouri as the “river of controversy,” Thorson’s article on the consensus building efforts authorized by Congress in 2007 puts these efforts in historic context and describes insights for how to make large scale consensus building efforts work. Facilitators from RESOLVE and the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution assist the process.

Thorson reminds us that the Missouri River “is synonymous with western history,” noting the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Native Americans of the Great Plains, and the six mainstem dams authorized by the 1944 Pick-Sloan Plan to provide hydro-power, water supply, navigation, and protection from the rivers’ epic floods, among other authorized purposes. These dams also had the unintended consequence of significant alteration to the river’s ecosystem, resulting in three species being listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act and many more in serious decline. In the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, Congress authorized the Corps of Engineers to prepare a studyin consultation with MRRIC to determine the actions required to mitigate losses of aquatic and terrestrial habitat, to recover federally listed species, and to restore the ecosystem to prevent further declines among other native species.

MRRIC operates by consensus – a challenging but important decision making process that requires members to articulate their interests, listen to one another, and engage in creative problem solving. Thorson, who served as MRRIC’s first chair, acknowledges the important role of the facilitation team in the consensus-building process, helping to “carefully plan, moderate, and document every meeting and call.” He also highlights the creative use of technology that RESOLVE uses that allows members who live along America’s longest river to communicate effectively across the large distances involved! Webinars, web-based meetings with real time work on documents, a members-only web site, and video conferencing are among the tools that are being employed.

The restoration of the Missouri River in harmony with the eight authorized purposes of the mainstem dams and other human needs is a challenge worthy of everyone’s best efforts. We at RESOLVE are honored to work with our facilitation partners at the USIECR to help the federal and state agencies, tribal governments, and stakeholders succeed.

- Gail Bingham

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RESOLVE science sheds light, reduces heat

Jan 9, 2012

RESOLVE’s Collaborative Science program has been successful in calming one aspect of one of the more controversial water disputes in the nation – the diversion of Sacramento River water to southern California. Centered around the protection of endangered species in the San Francisco Bay ecosystem, and involving multiple lawsuits, the dispute had led to accusations of scientific malpractice against government scientists. Things were escalating with Congressional hearings, and potentially serious consequences for all involved. The US Department of the Interior asked RESOLVE to convene a panel of independent experts, and investigate the facts of the case. Our conclusion: there was no evidence of deliberate malpractice, but there was evidence of misunderstandings and lack of clarity.

The judge (who had initially leveled the accusations), and the Interior Department (who had been criticized), both welcomed the findings. You can read about the case and their reactions here (LA Times), here (Fresno Bee), and here (E&E News).

Here at RESOLVE, we are taking some lessons from the result too. We did not present our results in terms of one party being right and the other wrong: Science doesn’t work that way. We worked independently to gather the right information; identified the ‘best available’ science, and called on scientists who were credible with all parties. Such steps can be very helpful to managers and decision-makers. Rather than declaring winners and losers, independent science review can support collaborative settlements and productive next steps. Maybe lawyers should consult more with scientists?

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