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'Public ecology' could help resolve mountaintop mining issues
Date:12/10/2012

ering; and David P. Robertson, associate director of the College of Natural Resources and Environment's Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability in Virginia Tech's National Capital Region.

"To put such new ideas into practice, there is need for more than just research. We have to teach the next generation of engineers, scientists, and policy makers, and reach out to the stakeholders in this debate," Sarver said.

Public ecology is the nexus of science, engineering, public policy and interest, citizen views and values, market forces, and environmental protection statutes and regulations. Through open discussion, it ensures ecological systems continue to function while commerce continues.

The researchers say issues of environment and economy are valued differently based on proximity. Problems arise because environmental and social impacts of mining are largely local, but decision-making tends to be driven by state, federal, or even global energy goals and regulations.

Defining the public is important, the researchers say.

"The public includes the CEO and the machine operator, both of whom grew up locally and fished the streams and now support their families by working for the mining company," Craynon said. "People with complex motivations have the best chance of succeeding in understanding and accommodating stakeholders' significant differences in values and interests."

The researchers' recommendations for action depend upon broad participation and transparency. But they are optimistic that attempts by some groups including the U.S. coal industry to increase public participation may signify a turn for the better.

"The recent decision by Patriot Coal to stop mountaintop mining may exemplify a shift in industry response," Robertson said.

But questions remain, the largest being whether interested stakeholders are willing to participate in deliberative processes, many of which require compromise in
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Contact: Lynn Davis
davisl@vt.edu
540-231-6157
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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