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CFX 2020 Speaker Series | Jill Blakley

cfx conference cfx2020 cumulative effects eia video blog Apr 09, 2020

Jill My name is Jill Blakley and I'm a Professor of Geography and Planning
at the University of Saskatchewan and I’ve been there about 9 or 10 years. I am cross appointed to the school of environment and sustainability at our university and in addition to my academic work I have been consulting for a little over 20 years.

I work in the areas of natural resources management and environmental impact assessment with a specialty in cumulative effects.

My research program involves students from both the department of geography and planning and the school of environment and I find that we attract a bit of a different audience under the school’s banner . The reason why is that it's extremely interdisciplinary so we end up with people who want training in environmental impact assessment but who come from all types of backgrounds including architecture,  planning including and all kinds of things to do with remote-sensing and you name it.

Their backgrounds are highly varied but it just seems like people today or students today no matter what their background everybody is coming to that similar conclusion
which is that we have to understand these bigger scale processes of change and they realize that by trying to understand those bigger picture questions they can then go back to their own discipline and also their home country and make changes that they
know are needed are needed. That’s why I sit across two different units.

Barry: You are really raising something that is profound to me.
The base of what we're doing in cumulative effects is this concept of multidisciplinary approaches bringing expertise from a lot of different aspects together because when we're talking about cumulative effects it's really the combined outcomes of a whole bunch of different interactions going on in say, a watershed or a regional landscape.

So it just doesn't work if you just isolate one land-use or one component by itself

Jill: Yes, absolutely.

Barry:  These schools then are sort of really structured to facilitate that kind of thinking right from the get go which I think is really powerful.

Jill: Exactly. That kind of thinking is built right into not only the coursework and the different assignments the students would do but of course into their theses and into
their research questions they pursue and really even into their frameworks for analyses. Usually those frameworks cut across different disciplines or draw from multiple disciplines. 

Barry: At CFX2020 you're going to be sharing with people a really interesting amazing and I think what will be an incredible resource probably for decades to come which is the Handbook for Cumulative Impact Assessment.

This is an international effort can you tell us a little bit more about that now?

Jill: Yes. The handbook is one in a series of handbooks that’s being produced by Edward Elger who is an international publishing house and the series is edited by Frank Vanclay. He has already guided a few handbooks into fruition and ours will be on one of the series so our manuscript should be completed in the next month or two. 

I think it will be a pretty unique piece. There aren't that many edited volumes on cumulative effects out there. There are some and they are very good and this will hopefully add to that collection and I think maybe what the main thing that it adds is the international perspectives and  also just some multi- disciplinary
multisector. It cuts across perspectives coming from government non- government organizations of course industry academia and all of it. It's a pretty wide range piece of work.

Barry: I think that something that's powerful about this is it’s an opportunity to really dig in on the core elements of solving these as my friend Ken Banister calls them
wicked problems outside of the framework of a particular jurisdiction’s legislation because there's lots of baggage that comes with legislation. Even just the definition of the term or how it’s applied or what the requirements are depending on where  you are in the world but this is this is more of an effort to bring together global thinkers I
guess on this topic.

Jill: Absolutely. I can I am trying to recall but I don't think that we actually have a chapter that comes from within the regulatory perspective. In other words the book actually opens with a piece from George Hegmann who talks about why it is so difficult to address cumulative effects in a regulatory within the regulatory setting. Of course he's in Canada and we do also include a chapter that collects information about what is required for cumulative effects  assessment under different regulatory systems around the world.

So we do have a chapter that tries to capture that, but the rest of the book really capture that but the rest of the book really pops us conceptually out of that bubble and into that broader milieu where you have interactions and connections between planning policy making, impact assessment of course a little bit of risk assessment and other kinds of tools . It is trying to think outside the box because it is awfully hard to do it within that box.

Barry: We are really pleased that George is actually one of the faculty members who is speaking at CFX2020 and that he's going to give his unique perspective on what it's like to try to be a practitioner applying this within the sometimes overly confining realm of legislation pretty difficult sometimes. 

I like that it's coming from an academic background as well because I think that what this will do really is a lot of the young minds that are coming up and thinking about how are we going to manage the interaction of the economy environment and people.
This is going to give them lots of food for thought and that's going to probably inspire them to to come up with new ideas or new ways of thinking about these challenges.

Jill: Yeah I really hope so. It's incredible to me and I guess one of the main things
I've seen in the course of my career and perhaps you sort of realize this as well. Truly the most innovative developments come from really creative individuals or small teams who are trying to do something. They have a vision and they just go for it even though it doesn't fit within the existing policy framework.

I won’t say it  isn’t in the the laws because I'm sure they are trying to stay within
laws but really have decided that something needs to be different they see the path to doing it different. Then they do it no matter what even if there isn't a directive from on high and even if there isn't some sort of supporting policy framework. Even if there isn't the money they go ahead and they do it different anyway and that is how change happens that's it what I’ve seen in my 20 + years.

With cumulative effects issues that's exactly the kind of thing that we do need that's going to be imperative and I do hope young people can sort of tap into that vein of creativity that's running throughout this book.

Barry: You just tapped into one of my biggest hot buttons you know sort of my mantra is we don't have to accept business as usual. In fact I think that the solutions rest there when we when we challenge the status quo.

One of one of the examples that I see is that often times in legislation we've been confined to thinking about the negative aspects of projects that we can't mitigate and those are defined as cumulative effects but really if we understand the systems and how they work we can actually engineer
our future by understanding that cumulative effects
can be positive too!

CFX2020 is going Virtual! See event details at