Environmental Conflict Analysis and Engagement

Specialization Description

Environmental conflicts pose powerful challenges to civil societies. More often than not they are complex and hard fought affairs that present urgent and practical problems to be solved. Citizens and decision makers are hungry for ways to improve environmental discussions. Many communities need wiser outcomes that are sound, explicitly equitable, and have practical staying power. At the same time we need to reduce the transaction costs (both human and financial) that are associated with public interests conflicts over climate change – adaptation or mitigation issues, water, pollution, timber , land, hunting, fishing and energy development just to mention a few.

Environmental and natural resource conflicts are ubiquitous. Everywhere and every day, people compete for scarce resources, including access to clean air and water, oil and gas, minerals, timber, farmland, or to preserve habitat for plants and animals. In competition for these resources, people struggle to resolve issues such as how to balance resource exploitation with the need to preserve air and water quality, how to supply water to arid regions while protecting surface and groundwater supplies, or how to permit genetic modification of plants and animals while preserving the integrity of naturally evolved species and ecosystems. Each of these issues involves a distinct “how”  question that collectively defines the core challenge of environmentalism: How can we promote the use of our natural resources and technology, while preserving the long-term quality and integrity of those resources on which current and future generations depend? Most decisions on whether and how resources should be used impact a wide diversity of people at the local, regional, and national level. These decisions also have inter-generational and global impacts that are beginning to be taken into account.

Specialization Focus

This environmental specialization will significantly advance the participants’ knowledge of how to utilize collaborative approaches to problem solving, while acknowledging the unique political, emotional and ideological influences that are often woven into environmental conflict. It prepares students to enter the field by introducing them to multi-party engagements that address the spectrum of conflict escalation indicators. In addition to those indicators, students will be become knowledgeable about (a) uniqueness, complexity and history of environmental conflict analysis and engagement; (b) managing scientific and technical information in environmental conflicts, and consensus building and facilitation theory relevant to environmental problem solving.

Specialization Courses

CAE610 Consensus Building & Facilitation

In this course, students will be introduced to consensus building decision processes, group process theories, and the skills needed to facilitate groups of all sizes in a wide variety of settings. Characteristics of consensus decision making and effective groups will be identified, and the role and function of a group facilitator will be defined. Consensus building processes, group development and formation will be examined, as will several group task and maintenance functions. Throughout this course there will be an emphasis on applying collaborative conflict management theory, strategies and processes.

CAE635 Introduction to Environmental Conflict & Collaborative Problem

Conflict over environmental and natural resource management issues can be severe and volatile; environmental conflicts pose powerful challenges to civil societies. More often than not they are complex and hard fought affairs that present urgent and practical problems to be solved. Citizens and decision makers are hungry for ways to improve environmental discussions. As an introduction to environmental conflicts, this course lays the foundation for the environmental specialization. Beginning with the first environmental mediation in 1973 in Washington State, students will be introduced to the history of this practice area; they will study the evolution of a field of practice that is moving to center stage as communities and states wrestle with the impact of climate change and the challenges of sharing limited resources.

CAE636 Managing Scientific and Technical Information in Environmental Conflicts

Scientific and technical complexity and uncertainty is probably the most significant factor that distinguishes environmental disputes from other kinds of conflicts. When specific controversies arise in environmental conflicts, facilitators and mediators look to science and technical experts to support decision-making. Scientific data and knowledge form the building blocks necessary to ground consensus-seeking deliberations. In this course students will learn about the kind of science-based information that is available and how to use it in helping the parties affected by the decision gain confidence in the process and outcomes. Students will learn how to assess informational needs as well how best to present information to reach the widest possible audience of stakeholders.