Session 2: Puerto Mauricio Development Conflict Simulation Parts I and II

Mieke van der Wansem, Tracy Dyke and Lawrence Susskind
Copyright (c) 2003 Consensus Building Institute and Vereniging Natuurmonumenten


Part I: The coastal town of Puerto Mauricio is faced with a number of important development decisions. First, a large and culturally significant parcel of land is about to be sold. The two potential purchasers are a national environmental group and a local hotel owner. Each plans to use the land in very different ways. At the same time, the environmental group is lobbying to destroy a nearby dam to preserve a surrounding estuary - much to the dismay of the local farmers who depend on the dam for irrigation. Finally, a high-tech firm is seeking to develop a nearby parcel of land and their plans involve bringing in light industry to this region. Stakeholders in this matter are coming together to see if they can reach an agreement on development plans for the area. It is important that any agreement fits within the constructs of the Provincial Land Use Plan and National Sustainability Principles.

Part II: The agreement from Part I is sent to an inter-governmental committee charged with implementing the National Sustainability Principles. The five-person committee meets with three representatives from Puerto Mauricio. The parties negotiate about how to interpret implications of the Sustainability Principles for the Puerto Mauricio Development Proposal. Ultimately, the government committee must decide whether to accept the Proposal and to write a press release to explain their decision to the public.

Major Lessons:

  • Mutual Gains: Too often, adversarial interactions between governments, conservation organizations and business / corporate entities result for all parties in the loss of value. Focus on developing mutually advantageous solutions. It is not necessary that for one party to 'win', the other party must 'lose'.
  • Problem Solving Dialogue: It is important that the stakeholders develop an appropriate consensus building forum such that they can have a meaningful problem solving dialogue.
  • Strategic Partnerships: Parties are encouraged to explore common interests and focus on long-term relationships.
  • Connect Policy and Project-Level Negotiations: Parties are encouraged to link high level theoretical policy discussions to 'on-the-ground' practical outcomes.

This role simulation is available from Harvard University's Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse.

Sessions 8-9: Siting an Asphalt Plant in the City of Madrona

Jason Corburn and Lawrence Susskind


The City of Madrona's zoning board has approved construction of an asphalt plant in the largely minority-populated neighborhood of Pina. The plant will supply the asphalt necessary for major projects which are vital to stimulating Madrona's stagnant economy. Opponents of the plant, mainly environmental groups, churches, and neighborhood organizations, believe the zoning process was unfair, particularly in light of the cumulative health risks that will fall primarily on the 'minority community'. One long-time Pina resident and physician has suggested that there is a correlation between the high rates of lung and respiratory cancer evident in Pina residents and the already high level of air pollution in the neighborhood. Proponents of plant construction claim that all legal requirements regarding the siting and environmental impact assessment have been met. Six key stakeholders must meet to consider how to address this matter in a fair way and also how to deal with claims of racism in environmental decision making.

Additional Notes:

This game introduces the topic of Environmental Justice. 'Environmental Racism' involves the deliberate targeting of poor communities or communities of color in the siting of hazardous facilities. It aims to convey lessons in 4 areas.

Major Lessons:

  • Fairness and Equity: Traditionally, poor and historically disenfranchised communities are more willing to demand less than their wealthier, politically-connected neighbors. Does fairness require forbidding any new facilities from being built and/or operating in poor or minority communities because they have housed a majority of such facilities in the past?
  • Equity issues must be looked at from a community-wide, even regional perspective. For example, is it equitable to allow higher health risks in one community than in others? What if a community with higher health risks has also received disproportionate benefits in the past? Environmental justice asks whether it is inequitable to have one segment of the population, be it poor or minority, bear disproportionate health burdens.
  • Process vs. Outcome: Establishing a transparent decision making process is a tenant of environmental justice. However, an improved process may not ensure a just outcome, especially if political power is concentrated.
  • This exercise shows that even with a well structured process with adequate stakeholder representation, just outcomes are difficult to achieve. Outcomes that are normally deemed appropriate are multi-layered and complex i.e. they ensure local input into land use decisions, guarantees of public health, compensation (financial and/or physical), and environmental mitigation (clean-ups and/or stricter rules) and often some kind of economic stimulus.
  • Long-term and Cumulative Impacts: Many environmental and health decisions are made under great uncertainty. We are forced to make decisions using imperfect information or contest scientific findings. One of the essentials of environmental justice is that we should seek to protect populations traditionally bearing the heaviest burdens or greatest risks. This negotiation shows how issues of environmental justice can be addressed even if there is great uncertainty about long-term and cumulative impact.
  • Stigma: Communities with historically "dirty" and unhealthy facilities can suffer a stigma as undesirable places to live and work. Urban areas typically develop such reputations and often become "dumping grounds" for noxious facilities. This game shows that a carefully constructed community improvement package can address many of these issues.

This role simulation is available from Harvard University's Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse.

Session 10: Offshore Wind Farm Negotiation

MIT students in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, under the supervision of Prof. Lawrence Susskind and Dr. Herman Karl


Shellfish Wind Associates has submitted a proposal to develop offshore wind farms in Dakota Shoal, and the Federal Permitting Agency (FPA) is reviewing the controversial proposal. A group of relevant stakeholders has been meeting to discuss the recently submitted draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and this is the third meeting convened by the FPA. Stakeholders are seeking consensus regarding the following issues:

  • How much agreement is there around the developer's EIS?
  • What additional environmental, economic, and/or aesthetic considerations should be addressed in the permitting decision?
  • What is preventing stakeholders from reaching agreement?
  • What mode of participation should be used to ensure stakeholders an appropriate role in the final permitting decision?

Process themes include techniques for creating value in spite of differences, joint fact-finding in the face of disputed scientific information, and dealing with scientific and technical uncertainty through an adaptive management approach.

This role simulation is available from Harvard University's Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse.

Session 20: Managing Groundwater Beneath the Pablo-Burford Border

Lawrence Susskind
Copyright © 1999, 2003 Sustainability Challenge Foundation


The fictional countries of Pablo and Burford face a water crisis brought on by extreme water quality and quantity problems. The dismal water situation is largely a result of unsustainable agricultural activities in the borderlands separating the two countries.

Two years ago, the Presidents of Pablo and Burford instructed the responsible national authorities to prepare a sustainable agricultural and water protection plan. Since then, the Burford Environmental Department and the Pablo Agriculture Department having been working to organize a joint summit to negotiate the framework of such a plan. In the midst of summit planning, a new controversy regarding agrochemical pollution of borderland groundwaters emerges. The summit now has been scheduled for six months earlier than originally planned.

The summit will be co-chaired by representatives of the Burford Environmental Department and the Pablo Agriculture Department. The other participants include the Governor of the Burford border state of Grady and representatives from a number of national and international NGOs with interests in groundwater policy. The agenda includes nine decision items, and the participants are expected to reach agreement by at least a two-thirds vote on all nine items.

Major Lessons:

  • Importance of agenda control
  • Power of option creation
  • Repercussions of voting procedures on the content and sustainability of the outcome
  • Importance of reaching agreement on terms and scientific facts before negotiating
  • Impact of BATNA on the negotiation

This role simulation is available from Harvard University's Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse.


Everyone will be asked to choose one of these four debates in which to participate. Each student or group of students is free to define the ethical or philosophical issue as they see fit. Each "side" will have 20 minutes to make its presentation and 10 minutes to comment on the other side's presentation. Students are expected to provide a handout of no more than 25 pages with sections from relevant background readings for everyone in the class. These are not Oxford-style debates. We are interested in understanding more about the philosophical underpinning of various "ethical claims," not in choosing a winner and a loser. You might want to think about taking a "side" that is contrary to your usual view in order to stretch your thinking. Your grade will be solely a function of how well you prepared and presented your ideas, not on the point-of-view you adopted.

Session 4: Growth vs. Scarcity
Session 5: Utilitarianism vs. Deep Ecology
Session 6: Command-Control vs. Markets
Session 7: Expert Knowledge vs. Indigenous Knowledge

Journal Writing

Journal-keeping via the class blog is required. You are expected to record your reflections on the material presented in class. We also hope that you will describe your "normative struggles" as you develop your own "theory of practice." You may choose to share your journal entries with your classmates, or you may keep them private.

A small selection of student blog entries taken from the latter part of the course is included below. All work is courtesy of the student named and used with permission.

Blog Selection (PDF)

Chris Lyddy: "What did we learn this semester?"
Bomee Jung: "What planners can learn from programmers"
Lori Colombo: "Environmental Arm Candy"
Kate Van Tassel: "Storytelling"
Kate Van Tassel: "How are indicators successful?"
Katherine Wallace: "Education + Responsibility = Stewardship"
Lori Colombo: "Boston indicators"
Bethie Miller: "Joint Indicator Finding"
Victoria Fan: "Public Education! Raising awareness!"
Victoria Fan: "Understanding the Planner's Role"
Bethie Miller: "Planner as Communicator"
Jessica Rhee: "Is consensus always good?"
Jessica Rhee: "The Planner and Power"
Victoria Fan: "Collaborative Law?"

Final Memo

Write a 3-5 page memo in which you reflect on the semester and prepare yourself to take advantage of your remaining time at MIT. Consider this an opportunity to understand your own philosophy of environmental planning and to map out a plan for your studies that reflects your priorities as a practitioner. Highlight how you intend to use the remaining three semesters at MIT to prepare to be an effective environmental planner.