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Sustained Dialogue and Public Deliberation Essay

Please read the Eser and Luloff (2003) article “Controversy over a Proposed Limestone Quarry” first, then consider the following scenario.

You have completed your degree in community development. As a newly minted community development practitioner, you enter the workforce with the knowledge, skills, and confidence that you can help communities and/or community organizations make positive changes, recognizing “development” is a far more inclusive term than simply “growth.”

You are fortunate enough to land a prestigious job as director of community programs, development, planning, and grants for the town of Springfield. On the surface, this community seems to be doing well, with the typical quality of life and well-being indicators in a state of “satisfaction.” The Town is primarily reliant on the extraction of natural resources (both timber and gas) to form the base of economic activity. Of course, there are some issues with water quality and roads that are in disrepair, but these are characteristic of such towns. Quickly, however, you realize all is not well in Springfield. A reserve of natural gas has recently been discovered. Unlike the current natural gas operation, this new gas source will require largely untested methods of extraction that have the potential to cause irreparable environmental contamination. On the other hand, it brings the promise of more well-paying jobs.

After speaking with a few of the community leaders and residents, you learn the Town is divided over the gas issue. It seems much of the local leadership, especially the politicians, are advocating extraction of the newly discovered natural gas. They argue the increase in jobs is worth the environmental penalty, plus it “fits” with the Town’s blue-collar, natural resource dependent “culture.” On the other hand, there are other residents, mostly comprised of newer more highly-educated community members, who are against drilling for new gas reserves. This group, who most often work in other industries and relocated to the community due to its natural amenities, wish to keep the environment as pristine as possible and argue that while such a project would offer a few jobs, these are temporary and not worth the environmental costs and potential social disruption.

Based on the scenario above, how would you apply sustained dialogue and public deliberation to arrive at a solution to the Town’s divided opinion concerning the newly discovered natural gas reserve?


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