JOIN THE DISCUSSION Fracking: Can communities, governments & businesses agree on an integrated approach?

This article posts during GLF 2014. See in English | Espanol
Jared Rodriguez : Truthout
Jared Rodriguez : Truthout

At the Global Landscapes Forum’s Youth Session, Laura Schuijers and Raquel Rosenberg will be facilitating a discussion on “implementation of integrated landscapes approaches.”

So, what is meant by an integrated landscapes approach?  In our view, “integration” needs to target different groups of stakeholders, as well as different environmental, agricultural and development sectors.  We’d love to hear your thoughts as well (see the bottom of this post for some questions and please share your ideas by commenting at the end of this article!).

At the Forum, we are going to mock up a stakeholder negotiation which addresses integration, by providing participants with a case study.  Our case study will look at an important environmental and landscapes issue – hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”).  Fracking is a mining technique which pumps fluid into rock formations – often comprising of water, a proppant, and a mixture of chemicals – to extract natural gas from shale deposits under the earth’s surface.

The environmental impacts of fracking are still relatively uncertain, though major concerns revolve around contamination of groundwater with fracking fluids, air pollution, local environmental damage due to well and site construction and associated traffic infrastructure.  Another concern is the large volumes of water used, particularly in dry countries where water security is an issue.  On the other hand, some believe that using natural gas is a necessary way to bridge the transition between reliance on emissions-intensive coal and crude oil and renewable energy, because it is less emissions-intensive than current major energy sources, like coal.  We encourage participants to learn more about fracking in their own communities, and their local government’s stance on fracking, and share their experiences.

The fracking site in our case study is on indigenous land – an issue faced in a number of proposed or existing fracking sites around the world.  Its proximity to a local protected forest is of concern both to environmentalists worried about road traffic, fluid disposal and contamination, and to the indigenous community who rely on the forest for subsistence.  Its proximity to agricultural land has raised concerns about food security among those who believe that the impacts to the land and its water supply might threaten commercial food production.

But for the mining company who has been granted an exploration licence to start investigating shale gas potential, the economic opportunities are very attractive.  And for the government, the need to reduce emissions is a policy it takes seriously.

The ability to meet emissions reductions targets along with the financial gain from exploiting shale resources make fracking attractive to the government, as long as it is not left in a position where it has to bear the burden of remediating environmental damage and expending resources on social disputes and litigation.

As you can no doubt sense, social, environmental and political concerns across sectors are rife.

Further details about the specifics of the case study will be provided to participants prior to the Forum.  For now, we’re interested in hearing your thoughts about how projects like fracking demonstrate the need for an integrated landscapes approach, and how you think dialogue between stakeholders might be facilitated.

Here are some stakeholders we’ve identified.  At the Forum, we will ask participants to adopt the position of one of the below stakeholders and put forward an argument in the mock negotiation.

  1. The indigenous community
  2. The local Farmers Association
  3. Department of Energy
  4. Local community members concerned about water quality
  5. The National Protected Areas Commission (concerned primarily with biodiversity conservation)
  6. Forest Commission (concerned about socially developing forest management for conservation)
  7. Save Our Forests (an NGO closely linked to the indigenous communities)
  8. The Mining Corporation

Following our discussions, Beatriz Zavariz will be pitching a policy message to the Forum, with suggestions on aspects participants think should be considered in order to improve stakeholder negotiations that take into account legal and institutional frameworks and the need for better integration.


  1. What do you think are the most significant differences in views amongst the stakeholders in this case study? Do you think it is possible to find common ground?
  2. Do you have any examples to share of other complex scenarios that have involved integration of stakeholder concerns and different sectors with successful results?
  3. What do you think is the greatest challenge to implementing a landscapes approach?
  4. How do fragmented legal and institutional regimes make it difficult for stakeholders to agree on an outcome, and how do laws and policies influence the relative power of different stakeholder groups?

Let us know what your thoughts are by commenting at the end of this article, and we look forward to sharing our case study with you soon!

Laura, Raquel and Bety.