Impacts of Resource Development Examined
Prince George, B.C. – A book emanating from a public forum on the cumulative impacts of resource development that was held at UNBC in 2014 has been published.
The book is titled “The Integration Imperative: Cumulative Environmental, Community and Health Effects of Multiple Natural Resource Developments.” It was edited by UNBC professors Drs. Michael Gillingham, Greg Halseth, Margot Parkes and Chris Johnson. It includes contributions from 29 faculty, adjunct faculty, researchers and others.
Dr. Johnson says “if you were at that meeting you would have an appreciation for the breadth of perspective and maybe some of the frustrations that people were feeling about the rapid pace of resource development across central B.C. but also northeast and northwestern British Columbia. I think at the heart of it was this feeling that there’s a lot happening over a very large space over a very short period of time.”
“Much of that concern was focussed on how the environment is changing, but people were also concerned about how their communities are changing with the influx of new and transient workers, and how that might affect their experiences in their communities as well as their access to things like health care, housing and all of these types of things that typically come with a boom-and-bust economy like we see in places such as Kitimat and Fort St. John.”
“So we took some of those thoughts and sat down and tried to understand the state of environmental assessment and how governments and communities are thinking about the cumulative effects of all the industrial activities and how they hit home, in particular, in certain regions or certain towns and cities across British Columbia.”
Dr. Johnson says people “are concerned about the environment, their communities, health and the provision of health services. And when we looked a little beyond British Columbia, other regions are grappling with those same issues but no one is really sort of trying to bring it all together and provide strategies to address the impacts of the multiple developments that are happening in any place.”
“So we wanted to try and identify the problem and then we wanted to provide some solutions in the book as well as highlight some people’s experiences. So there’s a lot of authors that have provided some perspectives on cumulative impacts for the environment, communities, for health. Thinking about those from the perspective of recreation or First Nations or, more broadly, culture as well as things like threatened species and threatened eco-systems and other types of values.”
He says it has to be remembered that at the time of the 2014 forum things were happening very rapidly in terms of resource development in the north. “At the time we were thinking about 6, 7, 8 LNG facilities on the coast, multiple pipelines, heavy oil pipelines across British Columbia. Oil and gas sector, coal sector, mining sector, forestry were all firing on most of their cylinders as well, and so again people were having the sense that a) they didn’t have any voice in these developments and b) they felt overwhelmed because they were coming at them from so many different directions.”
“And typically governments haven’t been very good at addressing these multiple impacts and, often times the approached used is to simply assess a project on a one-off basis without really considering what the implications are for all of these developments in one area, for the environment and the people who live there. And, at the core or the hear of it that’s what we’re trying to address in the book.”
In discussing some of the solutions put forward in the book Dr. Johnson says “we need to be thinking about all of these developments from all of these sectors in a more strategic way. And so, as a region or as a community or a watershed, depending on how you want to define the area that you’re interested in and concerned about, we need to probably apply some type of a planning model where all interested parties, local people through to local governments to First Nations, provincial and maybe even federal governments have to sit down and say what are our visions for this area, what do we want and come to some compromise, but also recognizing the types of developments that have come in the past and what might be coming in the future.”
“Once you have that vision then you can start to plan accordingly, start to talk about development proposals and approvals and things such as that. I think you really need this big framework, this planning framework and within that is when you start to make decisions about individual projects. Otherwise it’s very piecemeal, right?”
He also says “we need to have some political will and there’s been effort to develop these regional cumulative effects planning networks in other parts of Canada. One of the most crippling factors that was limiting the work they could do was they didn’t have any sort of formal decision-making powers. So they could advise government, but government didn’t necessarily have to implement that advice. And certainly we’re seeing the same thing in British Columbia where we’re not really sitting down and talking about the collective impacts. At best we’re talking about the impacts from individual projects.”
“Yes, without the political will we just have a bunch of people talking. We speak to that a little bit in the book, there has to be appropriate governance structures.”
He says the vision of the book “is to provide some opportunities for a structured framework by which we can think about these issues over larger areas and over longer time periods.”
The book is available as an e-book or you can order paper copies from Springer.