How can you avoid unnecessary criticism on your environmental project?

posted in: Values & Ideals | 0

When you work on socially and politically sensitive issues, at some point you will receive critique. – everybody knows that. You will have to deal with people or organizations who do not feel heard, or who feel that their interests are at stake. This makes the implementation of environmental projects difficult and frustrating. Stakeholders block your project, keep on debating about it, and consuming all your time, by objecting, but also by withdrawing their critical investment or cooperation, which you need for your project.

Criticism is never eliminated entirely. But much criticism can be prevented by good preparation and research.

First you must ask yourself if you really have researched the perspectives of all relevant parties. Did you really hear the widest possible audience that will be affected by your plan? Did you include even those whom you know are going to do difficult or will bring undesirable perspectives? Think of government agencies, companies and (groups of) citizens, which you almost always find annoying – take their perspectives too.

You also must properly analyze diverse perspectives, because the parties are not always explicitly articulating what they mean. Therefore you have to do research.

When you do this research, make a distinction between the rights and interests of different parties. Examples of rights include: the right to freedom of expression, freedom of religious expression, the right to health and well-being, and the right to safety. The problem is that rights often conflict. For example: In the debate about the ritual slaughter of animals without anesthesia there was a conflict between the right to freedom of religious expression and the right to the well-being of animals.

Examples of interests are interests in economic prosperity, in recreation, in a healthy environment, and the preservation of culture. A few years ago there was a plan to build a highway through the Dutch lake Naardermeer. There were certain rights involved, but also conflicting interests. There were interests in maintaining clean air and recreation,versus the interests in traffic flow serving economic prosperity.

When you weigh up the different perspectives, it is best to literally map out these rights and interests with the the different parties. Then you clearly see the conflicts between the various rights and interests.

Also include an overview of the arguments for these rights and interests, and any counter-arguments. Check whether there are any fallacies. Such an overview can help you balance out and make the decision of what the right thing to do is.

If you do research, it helps you prepare your project and makes it more resistant to criticism, because you have a nuanced plan and not one that is groundless or ad hoc.

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