Through conducting interdisciplinary research, and collaborating with social science and humanities scholars from across the country, Advancing Impact Assessment in Canada’s Socio-Ecological Systems aims to address questions like what does it mean to do impact assessment well and who gets to do it? These are questions which have not previously enjoyed enough attention from social science and humanities scholars, but which this project posits as essential for the practice going forward–––especially since the federal government passed a new Impact Assessment Act in 2019. The project is funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the federal Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.
The research team uses three current industrial practices in Canada–––mining in Nunavut, oil sands production in northern Alberta, and ocean resource development in Atlantic Canada––– as case studies to investigate the impact these resource sectors have on human communities alongside the surrounding natural environment. By including humans in their understanding of nature, this research team seeks to unearth how people and their sense of place are affected by modern industrial practices and how different groups of people are disproportionately impacted by resource extraction and development.
A central aim of the project is also to enhance capacities for dialogue across boundaries–––both between academic disciplines and between local communities and public or private sector ‘expertise’ in this field. Working with Dalhousie’s Killam Library GIS center, this project will build an IT-enabled network to bring people together, which is all the more necessary in this COVID-19 context. For now, they are calling this CNeDIA: Canadian Network for Dialogue on Impact Assessment.
The History of Science and Technology (HOST), both as a discipline and as a specific King’s program, is a great place for these questions. Reconsidering the relationship between people, society, and the environment is a central objective of a number of HOST classes. Dr. Stewart will be teaching a class this fall, HSTC 2210 Engineering the Planet: the Anthropocene Era, from Prehistory to Today’s Global Crisis, which addresses the themes and questions of this research project directly. The Virtual Network of Impact Assessment Expertise and Project’s approach to impact assessment research aims to understand how ‘nature-human’ relationships as STEM fields see them can be enriched by disciplines and understandings outside of traditional STEM fields. The social sciences and the humanities have a unique place within this approach to impact assessment.