Social conflict is ubiquitous. Conflicts involving the environment and natural resources are no exception; pick up today’s newspaper, or listen to the nightly news, and chances are great that you will be presented with one or more conflicts involving environmental resources in some way. Why? Why do people engage in conflicts? How? With what effect? How do environmental and natural resource conflicts differ from other kinds of public disputes? What are the ways in which society formally and informally manages these conflicts? When and how might alternative dispute resolution processes or informal collaborative problem-solving and planning processes effectively manage conflicts involving the environment and other public resources?
The focus of this course will be on understanding the causes, dynamics and consequences of natural resource and environmental conflicts as well as on understanding the range of possible approaches to managing these conflicts. The course will explore traditional procedures used to manage disputes in the public sector and analyze why these traditional mechanisms frequently fail when confronting environmental and resource disputes. Innovations in dispute resolution, from formal mediated negotiations to informal multi-party collaborative planning efforts, will be examined in detail.
Specific real-world cases of environmental or natural resource conflicts and dispute resolution and collaborative processes will be used to illustrate key points. Case materials will be drawn from current issue areas including offshore oil drilling, public lands management, ecosystem management, alternative energy development, hazardous waste and other facility siting, endangered species conservation, marine and fisheries management, air and water pollution control, community planning, and watershed management. By examining empirical cases in a systematic manner, students will leave the course with a conceptual framework that will enable them to understand and manage environmental and natural resource conflicts from a variety of perspectives.