Matt’s Case Study: Hogs and Water in Canada

Dudick, A. & Mitchell, B. (2003). Learning, Public Involvement and Environmental Assessment: A Canadian Case Study. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, 5(3), 339-64.

Overview

Dudick and Mitchell took on a case study that looked at the learning outcomes of an environmental assessment of a major hog processing facility built on the Assiniboine River in Brandon, Canada. The authors supplemented their goal by breaking down their topic and focusing specifically on the design of the environmental assessment (EA) process and the incorporation of environmental sustainability as key objectives. The case study used qualitative data about the EA that was gathered through interviews and then triangulated their analysis using internal methods (participant checks and reinterviews, peer reviews, audit trails)as a means of reducing bias (p. 342). The analysis showed that different stakeholders achieved different learning outcomes depending on their proximity to and relationship with the situation. As Dudick and Mitchell observe of the assessment, “this was a classic case of ‘decide-announce-defend’ that saw little or no input from members of the community beyond the political and business leadership” (p. 360). Community members in opposition to the installation of the hog facility felt community meetings were staged and merely bureaucratic in nature while supporters felt pleased with the amount of involvement from the community and local government. Local government officials also based their assessment of the process on their support or opposition to the plant’s installation. Ultimately, Dudick and Mitchell reach the conclusion that environmental assessments, as they are currently designed, are inherently flawed: the design does not encourage communicative or participatory learning, nor does it allow for early involvement from community members. Reworking the design of EA’s to be more inclusive would ideally make the process more inclusionary and encourage participatory learning.

Methods

In order to gather their qualitative data for the Brandon hog facility EA, Dudick and Mitchell used purposeful, stratified sampling in order to “capture the heterogeneity within…various public sectors” (p. 341). The public sectors that the authors targeted were not random though, and included “key publics who participated in the EA” (p. 341), although the exact “publics” are not provided in the article. What is stated about the specific areas targeted is that they included “project proponents, federal and provincial government officials, environmental non-governmental organisations, local businesses, and academics” (p. 341). From these groups, 27 individuals were interviewed using semi-structured personal interviews, over an 8-month period. The interviews sought to gather information regarding “what they [the interviewees] learned at specific events in the EA and from the case as a whole” (p. 341). As supplement to the interviews, Dudick and Mitchell conducted a document review, including “viewing over 30 hours of videotapes from ten public information meetings” (p. 342), and participant observation at three public meetings (p. 341).

Analysis and Conclusions

The authors chose to analyze their data by coding it and using thematic sorting. Both of these methods of analysis allowed Dudick and Mitchell to identify patterns and areas of overlap in the data. From these analyses emerged two major categories, instrumental and communicative learning, which were further broken down into secondary and tertiary categories. The first category, instrumental learning, was broken down into four theory based, secondary categories: scientific and technical knowledge; legal, administrative, and political procedures; social and economic knowledge; and potential risks and impacts. From this secondary group, tertiary (grounded) categories were developed, each of which broke down the secondary categories into more specific units, e.g. “waster treatment”, “not rocket science”, “control of the process”, etc (p. 346). The second primary category, communicative learning, was also broken down into four secondary categories: insight into one’s own interests; insight into the interests of others; communication strategies and methods; social mobilisation. As with the first collection of secondary, theory-based categories, a collection of tertiary, grounded categories was developed, e.g. “personal, family fears”, “community fears”, “personal objectives”, etc (p. 351). Each categorical level contributed to the arrangement of the article, with levels broken down into analysis sections (primary), subsections (secondary), and individual examples (tertiary). The authors used interview excerpts to exemplify each tertiary level item, therefore creating a larger narrative for both sides of the argument for and against the Brandon hog facility and the EA.

After conducting their analysis, Dudick and Mitchell determined that the EA conducted on the Brandon hog facility was poorly designed and ineffectively implemented. The EA was split into a variety of projects and stages, diving the hog facility and the wastewater treatment facility required by the plant to handle waste, and splitting the process into preconstruction, construction, and operation (p. 344). The EA consisted of an assessment of each project and stage, making community involvement difficult at best. The divided public outreach program as well as the slow,non-participatory community-education process, did not lead to any changes in opinion of those who supported or opposed the plant’s installation. As Dudick and Mitchell state, “technical and scientific information was inaccessible to many members of the public, and the predominance of technical discourses likely constrained broader involvement” (p. 356). These obstacles kept the public from reaching any constructive learning objectives.

Critique

The case study conducted by Dudick and Mitchell is well designed and executed. The time period was eight months, long enough to gather enough material for their analysis, but not so long that the case study broke conventions of the genre. I found it surprising that the entire EA and public outreach process took only eight months though, especially considering the impact that the hog facility was going to have, not just on Brandon, but on other towns downstream. Of these other towns, all that is mentioned of their them was that there were concerns expressed by “downstream communities that obtain their drinking water from the Assiniboine” (p. 344). Looking at the the data that was collected substantial data was collected from observation and by interview, but there was another layer of data that was critical to the author’s set up and analysis of the case: municipal data about budgets, revenue, and environmental statistics. Although this data was secondary to the qualitative data that the researchers gathered, it helped them provide an overview of the situation that was seemingly unavailable through their other research methods. They may have asked for the data during interviews, but relying on scientific and federal sources for the indisputable data added to the authors ethos and strengthened their analysis by adding an objective data set to inform their analysis of subjective experiences of that data.

Dudick and Mitchell also did an exemplary job of maintaining the anonymity of their research participants. As a primary concern in any case study involving human participants, anonymity can be difficult to maintain, especially when addressing individuals with titles or public positions that can be learned through simple research of the situation. In the case of the Brandon hog facility EA, the names of officials or key members of the community, some of which were apparently interviewed during the study, could likely be easily dug up. The authors referred to their participants only generally when excerpting interview responses. The structure of this article, and the way in which the interviews were included into the report while maintaining participant anonymity are both great examples of a case study that was designed and implemented well.

Who Has Ghetto Foot Straps?

I found a sweet contest that could win someone a new pair of foot straps. Submit  a picture of your worn-out or ghetto straps and you could win these:Here is the link to the contest: http://www.constantrevolution.net/2010/09/contest-win-pair-of-ynot-straps.html

If you don’t have foot straps and would like some free ones then get busy rigging up a pair of make-shift straps, borrow a friends camera (if you don’t have money for straps you probably don’t have money for a camera) and submit!

I’ll Bring the Jam

and you bring the butter…

These beauties are for flippin’ sale here

Foot Straps

I have been in the market for footstraps for a few months now. I ran across these today and they seem legit and a reasonable price.

Anyone know of any other good options? Less that $50 would be GREAT. PEDAL Consumption also has some good stuff.

New Raleigh Rush Hour

Check out the new Rush Hour by Raleigh. While you are at it, read a review of the  previous model from Urban Velo.

I got the tip about this bike from a friend of mine whose husband works for Raleigh! What a job! He gets to decide what bikes go to the bike shops.

Just met this guy’s dad…

4 buddies, runners from college and avid cyclists, rice across Europe in the summer of ’10. Looks pretty bad-ass.

This guy’s dad stopped me outside Starbucks asking if I “liked riding fixie.” Got to talking and he told me his son loved his and that he (dad) had gotten a chance to ride it. Didn’t take the chance of riding it through Europe though, what with all the hills, mountains, cobbles, and techno clubs. You just can’t trust those techno kids.

Cool dad. Cooler kid. Coolest blog; they do a lot of good-will work around the world…and they have t-shirts!

NO SKIPSIES

IT IS IN AUSTIN; what more could you ask for? There will hardly be a better way to spend a cold-ass February weekend

Brake or Brake-less

From The Foot Down

Following on from the hemet debate from a couple of weeks ago lets shoot the shit out of the brakes vs brakeless issue. Firstly though I must say that I am very pleased with the comments on the helmet post, these things usually descend into inane name calling pretty quickly but it looks like you, my lovely readers, are a very reasonable, intelligent bunch! As expected though most commenters were helmet wearers so it would be nice to hear from some more bare heads.
brakeless fixed gear bikeBrakeless, some people see it as suicidal but I would disagree. Riding a brakeless fixed gear bike isn’t like riding with a brake, you simply don’t do things the same way. People with a brake usually go pretty fast and stop at the end whereas brakeless riders tend to start to slow down earlier and come to a stop a lot more gradually, folks don’t see that though and actually often refuse to believe that it’s a viable method of coming to a stop.

There is absolutely no denying that a front brake will bring you to a stop far more safely than locking up your legs but that doesn’t mean that fitting a brake is a must (unless you are a staunch law abider). I think in most circumstances skip and skid stops work absolutely fine but there are certainly cases where they are less than ideal. Locking up your legs at 30+mph with a mid 70GI usually results in a bit of a fucking scary wobble followed by a bunch of skips, a booming heart rate and a big “PHEW!” at the end but this is also the reason for riding brakeless isn’t it?

Being a death defying badass is what it’s all about, oh, and “the zen” that people went on about a few years back (where did the zen go?), I just can’t imagine that the thrill is the same with a brake, I suppose it’s a bit like jumping out of a plane without a backup parachute, if the main one fucks up then you are fucked but if it does work you feel like a million bucks when you gently land on your feet and don’t end up as a gross bloody puddle of guts and bones in front of your friends and family.

Maybe riding brakeless is just plain irresponsible but I’ve yet to see anyone riding without a brake crash into anything because they didn’t have a lever to pull on, at the end of the day you still need a fair distance in which to stop with a front brake. If someone opens a door right in front of you or a car pulls out of a junction right in front of you or a pedestrian walks out right in front of you then you are going down, with or without a brake. Being on the ball and paying attention to what is going on around you at all times is more important than a brake if you ask me.

Like with helmets the fixed gear scene is split right down the middle when it comes to brakes, people on both sides of the fence are very proud of their choice and are adamant that the braking method they have chosen is the best way. Lets hear your thoughts on this, have you had any accidents that a brake would have prevented? Have you pulled your brake in an emergency and gone over the bars like a human cannonball? Do you think brakeless riders are morons? Is fitting a brake for pussies???

Qtd from The Foot Down

What the f- is this???

From here

Night Polo

Found this sweet little story about bike polo. Well designed and fun to read!

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