By Gabriela Jimenez, 1st year MDP student
For twelve weeks I have been researching and learning about the methodologies used to prepare Environmental Assessments for engineering projects, specifically the social and cultural aspects. Corporations can follow standardized methodologies; however, they also can go beyond the minimum requirements and develop projects that are more sustainable.
To achieve sustainability, the challenge is to pursue collaborative processes, which can be very complex. In order to get consensus or agreements on any topic, all participants need to understand each other’s positions, to develop empathy, and to be clear on the principals and goals that brought them to the table. So, negotiation is the key word for successful collaborative processes.
We know from our studies that the environment-human system is complex, so any plan designed to remediate an effect, will influence some other variable. In real life, it is even more complex than studied, because the positions taken during human interactions sometimes are unpredictable. Even though I was not involved in any type of negotiation during this internship, I studied and perceived the complexity and variety of obstacles that might influence agreements. This includes political decisions, legal frameworks, health concerns, cultural values, etc. This experience confirmed for me that we can get tools in the classroom; however, we acquire the learning when we have to face, participate and/or lead the negotiation process.
|Gabriela in front of Kettle Dam, Nelson River, Manitoba|
I would love to work on project development building the bridge between the social and the engineering aspects. Therefore, this placement was very relevant, since it nourished my professional background by exposing me to the complexity of the reality of sustainable development.
Energy will always be needed and thus engineering projects will keep happening. The approach taken should be socially and environmentally inclusive with the goal of obtaining the most benefit for all parties’ involved, as well as reducing the footprint to the minimum possible. I recognize that each situation will be different because of the type of the project, nature of the participants, negotiation process, circumstances and power/economic relations; but understanding the principles to achieve effective agreements will absolutely help ensure development is sustainable.