In the midst of training, attending a conference in London and taking part in the AOSIS negotiation workshop in New York, I was trying to finalize my three placements. Into my fellowship and placement choices, I have woven the theme of environmental conflicts and the scales with which they are associated—from local to cross-boundary to international, and from internal conflicts, to bilateral conflicts, to multiparty disputes.
I selected Navdanya, a world-renowned biodiversity conservation and organic farming NGO based in India, as my first placement. Navdanya was founded by nuclear physicist and environmental advocate Dr .Vandana Shiva with the purpose of educating and promoting organic farming while maintaining a staunch stance against agribusinesses, their practices, and the patenting of genetic material such as seeds or crop varieties.
For anyone looking to establish a connection with an organization already up to its neck in activity and work, not to mention an organization located in an altogether different culture (read: universe), my advice is to become really good at waiting. Waiting for responses, for visas to process, for dates to be confirmed…
Thankfully, both of patience and perseverance are skills developed through negotiation and conflict management training. And before everything did fall into place, I had the opportunity to attend an Insight Partners workshop given to the company MathWorks and taught by none other than Insight Collaborative President David Seibel and Mr. Stevenson Carlebach, senior consultant at various conflict management firms in the Boston Area, and Director of Eque LLC.
The Math (and Science) Works
Aside from being a beautiful campus, participating in the MathWorks Effective Communication workshop represented a unique metaphorical overlap for me. As an engineer studying conflict management, I resonated with the technical experts in the audience. Often in uniquely applied science disciplines, little room is available to engineers to explore areas of our minds, which aid us in communication, self-awareness, managing conflicts, and negotiating. I purposefully enrolled in a Minor (Environmental Studies) to gain knowledge outside engineering and science, since my major concentration afforded me only two course choices outside the curriculum.
I was happy to play a role during the debriefs and short exercises from group. The real highlight was watching Mr. Seibel and Mr. Carlebach ‘wow’ the audience. I am grateful that just before embarking on my international placements, I was able to attend both a negotiation and effective communication training.
I will save the detailed explanation of my placement goals for a later journal entry. Navdanya is involved in the promotion of organic farming, a position take in direct opposition to the conventional form of farming used around the world, consisting of mechanized agriculture, chemical additives, mass production, focus on high yields, single crops, and of course, the controversial genetic modification of crops to increase yield, develop resistance or impart additional nutritional value such as vitamins or minerals.
Set against the backdrop of hundreds of thousands of farmer suicides in India and the battles fought against the introduction of genetically modified crop varieties into India by various agribusinesses, Navdanya represents the interests of those in the environmental movement.
Land use changes and impacts are common to every nation. In countries such as India, they represent one of the most divisive and bitterly disputed domestic internal conflicts.
I am honored and excited to be able to serve Navdanya as a resource for negotiation, conflict management and additionally as a resource in environmental technology. I am even more excited about the prospect of learning about their social dynamic and the relationships between farmers, NGOs and agribusinesses in the region.