Getting to ‘Let’s Talk’: Comments on Collaborative Environmental Dispute Resolution Processes

Carrie Menkel-Meadow, UC Irvine School of Law


This essay discusses the factors which are encouraging or disabling collaborative decision making and legal processes in environmental disputes. As a commentary on Brad Karkkainen's article on the use of collaborative processes in situations of both "natural and legal destabilization" events, the article reports on several successful environmental collaborative processes, highlighting the new process expertise and new knowledge of consensus-based, multi-jurisdictional decision making. It also suggests some countervailing factors and impediments to the effective use of collaborative dispute resolution in both environmental and other complex multi-party disputes. The essay concludes by outlining some challenges to the field of collaborative decision making and legal and social change and offers some suggestions for meeting those challenges, such as linking levels of governments and solutions to a variety of governance problems, using more flexible and contingent outcomes and "resolutions," developing a wider scope of "triggering events" and creative solutions, and considering rigorously the relationship of formal legal endowments to less formal processes for legal and political decision making.