Public participation is often topical. So, what do we do? Environmental disputes affect almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives. The consequences of dispute range from individuals dealing with septic permits to pipeline protests. Environmental disputes also include farm zoning issues such as poultry, wolf reintroduction disputes, fisheries management and site selection for large-scale energy production or extractive industry in wilderness areas or urban edge. Consider imbalances of earth, water, fire and air are each caused by environmental disputes. As we all know, the magnitude and scope of unresolved disputes can no longer be ignored.
Mediation generally refers to alternative dispute resolution applied to two-party disputes. For example, two people in dispute mutually-agree to having another person help them work through the misunderstanding and come up with a workable arrangement for going forward.
Environmental disputes are complex – made more so because authority does not reside with the parties affected. Generally, decisions are made remotely by script, rather than based on sound factual evidence on the ground. Authority should be local. Who else is on the ground every day in a real way observing change for the good or not so good? Local people need to reclaim authority and expertise. Local people are the experts.
In order to mediate a landscape scale dispute, the parties must be acting in good faith to resolve the situation. How can we encourage a better attitude and relieve the anonymity of consequence that plagues environmental policy. What is necessary to a better outcome? Expertise is in real discussion on the home turf. We need more cross-issue, cross-political environmental and community workgroups.
Appreciative inquiry begins with the individual and is a great approach to workgroup cohesion. Then, scope can broaden to government reform, environmental dispute resolution or peace-building. Appreciative inquiry as a positivizing force is essential to sustainable and beneficial organizational or social change. We need a new way of talking and seeing the premise of economic growth and profit, right where we all live. We need new and simple solutions to local economic control, authority and inter-regional and inter-generational trade.
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