Do you speak my language?
Emer Emily Neenan, Group A
In an international academic group, a common language is chosen and used. Nowadays, this is most commonly English. It’s not possible to have complex technical discussions across multiple languages, and it’s generally prohibitively difficult (and expensive) to have professional translators working at a conference, symposium, or summer school. Which is why the ReSToRE Summer School operates in English. Some delegates are speaking their first language (including me), others their second, or third.
It’s important to choose and use a common language, but it’s also important to remember that not everyone has the same grounding in that language. Everyone has a certain level of fluency to participate, but not everyone has “native” fluency. It’s important for a speaker, especially one using their first language, to clarify meanings and make sure everyone understands the words they use. And it’s important for listeners to ask for clarification, if a speaker uses an ambiguous word or phrase. Even among native speakers of a language, there can easily be misunderstandings, especially if the speaker and listener come from two different regions or countries.
During the first day’s sessions of the group working on Public acceptance of the extraction industry, we spent time coming up with questions and issues to address on the topic, but we also spent a considerable amount of time simply defining the words in that title. Yes, we all understand what the workshop is about, we all understand the title. But do we all understand the title the same? If I say “public,” do you imagine the same thing I’m imagining? Do you speak my language?
The public, we discussed, is not a monolith, it is comprised of many “publics”. It means local communities and it means national identities. It means people who care and people who don’t.
Public acceptance means whether the public accept something and also how much the public accept something (and “not at all” might be the answer). It means whether they care about it, or even know about it. It means if they agree with it, or if they’re satisfied with it, or if they agree with it now because they have been satisfied with it. Maybe sometimes it just means they’re not actively protesting it.
The extraction industry might mean a zinc mine to one person, and a global network of rich and amoral corporations to another person. It might encompass everything from old quarries, to modern deep high-tech mines, to huge offshore drilling projects, to small artisanal seasonal mines.
If you read or hear Public acceptance of the extraction industry, what do you picture?
Halfway through our discussion, as we attempted to pin down our definitions in our common language, a man knocked at the door to ask a question as Gaeilge (in the Irish language), looking for an Irish language group. Looking for people who speak his language.
But just because we’re all speaking English doesn’t mean we’re all speaking the same language.
This is also an interdisciplinary summer school, albeit very weighted towards the geosciences. If I, an education researcher, say “public,” what does an industry geologist picture? What does a social scientist working with rural mining communities picture? Do you speak my language?
Once again, it is vitally important that a speaker clarifies their words, and that listeners ask for clarifications. It’s important to find or make a common language. Otherwise these complex, technical discussions mean nothing except what they mean in our own heads, and we might as well have all stayed in our disparate, distant countries and disparate, distant disciplines.
Let’s discuss. Do you speak my language? I’ll try to learn yours.
Responsible Use of Earth Resources: Gathering Perspectives
Brittney Mashall, Group C
Forty-two students and working professionals, representing 20 countries, gathered with ReSToRE workshop lecturers and facilitators to begin harnessing the power of diverse perspectives. Their problem statement is both astronomical in it’s scope and imperative to society: How do we sustainably and responsibly mine, use and refurbish earth’s natural resources in a growing global economy. The participants will focus around 4 major themes:
- Public acceptance of the extraction industry
- Community engagement in resource and environmental activities
- Waste Management in a circular economy
- Ethical and responsible sourcing of earth resources.
These themes will be dissected in the coming days, with the aim of delivering abstracts that outline a path forward towards solutions.
The circular economy group took part in an exercise in divergent thinking - let’s see where this early ideation will go as the participants focus, diverge and re-focus again in the coming days as they work towards a viable solution!
Meeting the experts!
Larona Teseletso, Group D
Many had expectations and many were lost, and that’s what made day 1 great. We met the experts and they put things into perspective!
This year’s summer programme has set out to address the challenges facing the societal and earth science nexus and how the workforce can be transformed to benefit the local communities. The global challenges that are rising from an increased metal demand, decarbonised global economy, metal substitution, rate of discovery of new greenfields all need to be addressed. But how do these challenges affect or influence the utilization of these metal resources from a societal, economic or environmental perspective is the key question. Do we really understand these key issues? The optimistic diverse participants from various countries, both developed and developing, shows the optimism in what the week has in store for mining and society.
‘Mining has a capacity!’ expresses Edmund Nickless, chairman of IUGS. He addresses that limiting supply capacity will eventually lead to supply constraints due to the increased demand of metals for consumption. These concerns show that there is a definite need to address these resource governing challenges in a way in which all relevant stakeholders have developed a level of trust towards the extractive companies and operations.
Dr Gibson elaborates on the need for communication with the local communities in which you operate. In a survey she and her team conducted, about the understanding of the word ‘geology’ between the private and the public sector, about 41% of the surveyed people registered as passive supporters, sciencephiles at 28%, critically interested 17% and 13 % as disengaged. These statistics shows us that there is need to address the importance of our target audiences as we address these problems by selecting proper quantifiers of measurement and scale. The definition of terminologies into addressing these challenges provide a start-up position to understanding and clarify exactly what we need to address. This will make the action plan towards the minerals at individual, government and or international level know their specific roles into taking these issues. How easy are these tasks really? My sentiments are that if we are able to dissect these issues into small target oriented solutions, it would make the task easier through effective communication, negotiation, decision making and engagement.
As the mining becomes more complex, an importance of understanding the how, why and when these extractive minerals are exploited and how they are beneficiated on the total supply value chain and how do they benefit the local community as the mineral becomes depleted should become loud and clear.
Finally, the need for communication with all stakeholders to develop some level of social trust will ensure that the extractive industry will remain competitive, profitable and sustainable for the generation of today and tomorrow.
So has day 1 stretched our minds a bit out of pandora? Yes! Can’t wait to see how the week evolves.