ADDRESSING THE IMPACTS OF UNSUSTAINABLE PRACTICES

By: Lorena Vazquez and Amanda Fotheringham

It is well known that the current economic climate is having negative impacts on both the environment and communities. Considering this context, two research projects are being developed, one seeks to prevent the loss of environmental services (ES) caused by land clearance through the extension of a ES certification scheme and the other research project explores the social impacts on mining towns caused by the minerals and metal downturn and the resulting decline in industry presence within dependent townships. We will firstly describe the two research projects and their significance and then proceed to briefly provide a summary of the differences and similarities that exist between the two projects.

It is estimated than 60% of the ecosystem services are being degraded or used unsustainably causing significant harm to human well-being (MEA, 2005)  Under these circumstances, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is developing the FSC Ecosystem Service Programme with the aim to integrate a modular certification to guarantee the maintenance and enhancement of specific ES (Figure 1). In order to provide accurate information on a national basis, Lorena Vazquez is carrying out an analysis of ES market-based instruments to determine if the FSC standard is suitable to access to local markets. Throughout the research, demand and supply opportunities have been recognized as key elements for the identification of environmental services that could be integrated to the FSC certification, being carbon sequestration and storage services one of the most convenient. There is still a long way to complete the analysis and matters related to market needs, competition, barriers to entry and regulations will be studied in more detail. When finished, this paper will be a great asset for the elaboration of the national FSC Environmental Service Standard and for national FSC Environmental Services Strategy.

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Figure 1. Ecosystem Services (CGIAR 2014)

While the project described above assess environmental impacts, the second project seeks to assess social impacts caused by a sudden and unprecedented downturn in the mining industry. This research project is being carried out by Amanda Fotheringham and it explores the impacts on the townships and communities that support the mines in relation to human well being factors, paying a particular attention to the townships located in the Bowen Basin. The project will further go on to delve into the effects of shifting towards a mobile workforce through Fly-in-Fly-Out and Drive-In-Drive-Out arrangements; a move that will become more prevalent in the future. The future of these townships originally created to support mining operations comes into question and is an issue that is more pressing now than ever with the continued instability of the extractive resource industry. This paper will highlight the need for more research to be conducted and the lack of information and gaps in knowledge that currently exist. Comparative case studies will be utilized both domestic and international in scope to highlight responses from government, communities and firms in the context of the exiting of a monopolist (or oligopolistic) industry from a dependent community. From the use of these comparative case studies a discussion can occur for future policy direction.

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Figure 2. Operating Mines and Local Townships in the Bowen Basin, QLD. (CQU, 2012)

While both research projects are very distinctive in their topics some similarities relating to the method, type of data collection and type of analysis do exist. Lorena and Amanda are using secondary data to collate their information, because both have recognized that collecting primary data for a research project with a 12-week time frame is not feasible. The data and information collected is being done so in a systematic method, with a formulated and exhaustive approach to research being implemented. Another similarity that exists between the two projects is the use of both quantitative and qualitative analysis. While both researchers will explore those concepts and ideas that cannot be measured they will also implore the use of statistics. Lorena is utilizing quantitative analysis through the pricing and costs of ES certification to land-owners and, Amanda, through the use of past census’ and existing information in regards to mining communities.

In contrast to the similarity of the research method, there are significant differences between both projects in their research questions, development and scope. Lorena’s project has changed since it was first framed, it initially sought to identify and compare different ES certification schemes around the world with the objective to determine the accessibility of FSC to ES certification. Despite the objective not changing, the scope and the means by which it will source its answers have. It will be now a hypothesis testing research focused on a local analysis of the ES markets, this will provide quicker answers to determine the suitability of FSC for ES certification locally, which is of high priority for the partner organization, FSC Australia. While, Amanda’s project hasn’t changed due to the nature of the internship and continues to be focused on a comparative case study that utilizes both international and domestic studies.

We have discussed the nature of our projects and the susceptibility of change especially when working with an organization that may have divergent opinions and views. Environmental research requires an adaptive approach especially when facing gaps in knowledge and information. On encountering such setbacks it is important to reassess and at times change the questions that need to be asked and even the direction of the project. These impediments only further highlight the necessity for further research and development in our chosen project areas.

REFERENCES:

Central Queensland University, 2012, Mining Communities Research Exchange. Accessed 5th April 2016. Available from: http://www.bowenbasin.cqu.edu.au/basin_data/town.html

CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), 2014, Ecosystem services and resilience framework. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute (IWMI). CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE). 46p. doi: 10.5337/2014.229

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005, Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DC.

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