UNBC researchers publish new book on cumulative impacts of resource development

September 16, 2016

UNBC researchers have published a new book that explores the cumulative impacts of resource development.

Titled “The Integration Imperative: Cumulative Environmental, Community and Health Effects of Multiple Natural Resource Developments,” the book was edited by UNBC professors Drs. Michael Gillingham (Ecosystem and Science Management), Greg Halseth (Geography), Chris Johnson (Ecosystem and Science Management) and Margot Parkes (School of Health Sciences). 

Focused on the interaction between cumulative resource developments and the well-being of the environment, communities and human health, the book includes a large number of voices in the form of contributions from 29 UNBC faculty, adjunct faculty, researchers, and other collaborators.

“There is a vital need to integrate a new way of thinking and a wider range of perspectives and understandings if we are to understand, and perhaps even manage the cumulative impacts from natural resource development,” said Dr. Parkes. “I am very pleased that this book makes the argument for a wider integration of perspectives and specifically details how environmental, community, and health impacts must be looked at together.”

The book stems from a two-day public forum at UNBC in January 2014 that was organized in partnership by the Community Development Institute, the Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute and the Health Research Institute. The forum was attended by more than 200 people from a wide range of sectors and backgrounds and was widely recognized for the opportunity it provided to learn about and talk about, a diverse set of issues related to resource development and cumulative impacts.

At that forum, UNBC researchers promised to continue moving the cumulative impacts dialogue forward.

The book is organized into four parts. The first provides background and definitions around the concept of cumulative effects and cumulative impacts, as well as speaking to the need to broaden and better integrate our current approaches. The second part includes chapters that individually explore the notion of cumulative impacts from environmental, community, and health perspectives. This provides important background for how different viewpoints and perspectives have approached the cumulative impacts topic.

“Although we have long sought to understand the cumulative impacts of resource development, these past efforts generally have been too limited in their spatial or temporal scale,” said Dr. Gillingham. “Rarely if ever do we consider if an area has already been too impacted to allow further human-related disturbance. Each day it is becoming more critical that we better understand cumulative impacts from a more holistic perspective.”

The third part includes eight vignettes that explore different examples of cumulative impacts. Included are topics such as climate change, wildlife conservation, outdoor recreation, First Nations perspectives on land change, and the challenges of the current regulation-based assessment processes. The fourth part of the book looks forward and describes the critical imperative of changing our approaches to thinking about and assessing cumulative impacts. This part also makes the call for more a more integrative understanding of cumulative impacts.

“UNBC has had a long and extensive track record engaging the issues that are important for Northern B.C. and sharing those lessons learned to positively impact global communities,” added Dr. Geoff Payne, UNBC Interim Vice President Research. “A foundational area since the inception of UNBC has been research on the natural environment with a focus on sustainability for the communities that economically benefits from the natural environment and expanded with the lens of health and well-being of people and ecosystems in those settings.

"I am thrilled this book continues to extend and expand UNBC’s leadership around the natural resources development issues through an interdisciplinary approach that will ensure the success of the communities of British Columbia.”

Above from left: Drs. Chris Johnson, Margot Parkes, Michael Gillingham and Greg Halseth.