Monthly Archives: November 2013

RESOLVE Volunteer: An Introduction

Nov 11, 2013

Since I’ll be posting blogs periodically on the RESOLVE website and elsewhere, I thought I should introduce myself. I recently became a RESOLVE volunteer after reading Amy Larkin’s book Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy (Macmillan, 2013). Amy has been a tireless environmental activist who, in this well-documented analysis, clearly and powerfully illuminates the destructive impacts of business-as-usual, not only on the environment, but on our economy and ultimately on our way of life. Unlike many other screeds cautioning about ecological devastation, however, Environmental Debt delineates market-based and pragmatic solutions to some of our problems, not just for the future but many that are being implemented right now. RESOLVE, with whom Amy is affiliated as a strategic partner, has been a part of some of these solutions.

As I devoured her book, my feelings of hopelessness and helplessness about the mess we have made here on planet earth morphed into stirrings of optimism and excitement. Perhaps we can’t solve all of our problems with perfectly crafted solutions on the global and comprehensive scale required, but there are things that can be done as business and government and environmental groups work together. For example, large multi-nationals like McDonalds, Puma, Tiffany and Company, and Unilever have already taken steps to become more responsible environmental stewards. So perhaps all is not lost; and if so, I definitely want to be a part of the effort to make a difference.

Sure, I’ve done the typical things — recycle, change out incandescent light bulbs for fluorescents, purchase fuel efficient vehicles, turn down the thermostat, garden organically, etc. And my farm even showcases some unusual environmental initiatives, like prairie grasses and solar panels. But so much more is needed to preserve this orb that sustains us all.  I can collect rain in recycled barrels, but that doesn’t begin to address the water challenges facing many parts of the globe. I can vote for candidates with a responsible environmental agenda, but the gridlock inWashingtoncan undermine the most committed legislators. Curtailing purchases, and buying from companies whose supply chains avoid workforce and environmental abuses, makes me feel better but leaves intact capitalism’s moral blinders.

As a psychologist, a profession from which I recently retired, when particularly intransigent situations arose, I would schedule extra sessions or seek a consultation or invite in family members to help move things forward. Failure was never an option I considered, even if on occasion results were not what I would have wished. We all need a sense of agency, of being able to make a difference, in our careers and in our personal and civic lives. With Mother Earth as the endangered client, thanks to Amy’s book I now recognize that here too despair does not have to play a role. With the exceptional promise of RESOLVE’s team operating in some of the most conflicted arenas of environmental decision-making, with their Solutions Network showcasing unusual and creative global initiatives to foster more responsible stewardship of human and natural resources, I have found a partnership that restores my hope that we can still avert disaster, and preserve the gifts of planet earth for our grandchildren and generations to come.

Stay tuned as I share more about RESOLVE’s work.

- Kathy Arcuri

Kathy Arcuri is a RESOLVE volunteer.  She writes blog posts about RESOLVE’s work from her own perspective.

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Webinar on Joint Fact Finding for Energy Resources Issues

Nov 8, 2013

RESOLVE’s webinar on Joint Fact Finding (JFF) illustrated, through case examples and a hypothetical scenario, the usefulness of this consensus-building process for real-world problem-solving in conflicted arenas of energy development, like the relatively new momentum in hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction. Sixteen participants – representing industry, government, NGOs, and academia – learned about RESOLVE’s work from Stephen Courtney, Director of Collaborative Science; Paul De Morgan, Senior Mediator; and Dana Goodson, Senior Facilitator. The webinar was managed very efficiently by Adobe Connect, with its visual and auditory interactive format.

As Dr. Courtney pointed out, science is often disputed or monopolized in complex, multi-party initiatives, creating stalemates. In the United States, such bottlenecks can result in regulatory agencies or the courts handing down decisions for action, perhaps after costly lobbying efforts and litigation. These top-down recommendations do not necessarily have buy-in from all participants and thus may be doomed to problematic implementation or even outright failure. JFF can make a huge difference in such cases, bringing divergent parties to consensus around the scientific or technical issues at stake. One example illustrated how a stalled project involving three government agencies moved from a ten-year standoff to resolution in seven months.

A very important aspect of the JFF process includes reaching out to all key stakeholders, large and small, and bringing them together for collaborative problem-solving on scientific or technical issues. This task force then defines the areas of disagreement amenable to JFF, determines how to find answers, jointly identifies experts who can conduct independent research if needed, and evaluates results in order to arrive at a roadmap for decision-making. RESOLVE, with their thirty-year history of conflict mediation and resolution, assures an unbiased approach to the team effort that is clear, orderly and respectful, and has buy-in from all participants. They also maintain a record of the proceedings and decisions, and ensure dissemination of these findings to all critical decision-makers, constituencies, and the public.

As a landowner in northeast Pennsylvania, living amidst the Marcellus shale gas play, I was very encouraged to hear about RESOLVE’s JFF resource and would encourage landowners, energy development companies, NGOs, and government regulatory agencies to consider this option if and when disputes arise around scientific or technical issues. Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is fraught with uncertainties regarding environmental and health impacts, as well as complex financial and legal considerations. Landowners, as compared to large energy corporations, are not equally empowered as decision-makers and often operate in the dark, with a lack of transparency, scientific and technical understanding, and most importantly, trust, creating confusion about how to proceed. Therefore, it seems that all parties would be better served with a clear and consensual road map, so that the issues raised by this important bridge to energy independence and sustainability can be understood by all stakeholders, working together in a spirit of cooperation.

You can listen in to this informative webinar at http://www.resolv.org/site-collaborativescience/services/joint-fact-finding/#webinar.

- Kathy Arcuri, RESOLVE Volunteer

Kathy Arcuri is a RESOLVE volunteer. She writes blog posts on RESOLVE’s work from her own perspective.

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