Research report Great Bear Rainforest - Denyse van Opbergen

ACSN Student Research Award Report

Denyse van Opbergen

In May/June 2016 I travelled to Canada, to conduct interviews for my thesis research (on the variables affecting joint knowledge production regarding the multi-stakeholder governance of the Great Bear Rainforest land-use planning). This was done as part of my MSc degree on ‘Sustainability Science and Policy’ at Maastricht University. I specifically travelled to British Columbia, where I visited Victoria and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, as well as the city of Vancouver itself.

I had been to British Columbia before and I was very curious to go back and learn more about the area and Canadian culture. I tried to fit in as much sightseeing, hiking, and cultural explorations as possible between my interviews and trips to the library. The first thing I noticed was the openness and friendliness of Canadians. Whenever I approached someone to ask a question (often related to getting directions), they were very helpful and frequently even offered to walk me to my place of destination, whilst happily chatting about their lives. I also noticed, that outside the bigger cities most people drive everywhere, as the distance travelled to get somewhere tends to be longer than what we are used to in the Netherlands. As I had no car available I soon realised that public transportation outside of the bigger cities (Victoria and Vancouver) was not as common or frequent, which made travelling to my interview location in Nanaimo not nearly as easy as I had expected. However, I once again experienced Canadian kindness (and possibly pragmatism) as my interviewee offered to pick me up and drop me off at the bus station, before I had even brought the problem up.

Another pleasant surprise was to discover the connection many Canadians have with nature, and that spending time outdoors appears be a real part of the Canadian lifestyle. Many of the people I met mentioned that they would regularly go hiking, camping, or spend time in nature in general and for them this was a common way to meet and catch up with friends. In my experience, this is much less the case in the Netherlands, where many social interactions take place in urban settings or at home. Nowadays, I am definitely trying to incorporate more outdoors activities as part of my social interactions.

I am very grateful for having received the ACSN Student Research Award as it greatly aided my research by allowing me to conduct my interviews in-person. Many of the interviewees would likely not have been as forward in their answers had this not been the case. My research and travel allowed me to develop a better understanding of the relationship between the (BC provincial) government and indigenous communities, specifically with regards to land-use planning and rights and titles. It allowed me to discover that this is a topic that is of particular interest to me, and one that I would like to explore further. By travelling to Canada I was able to gain a greater insight into my research topic as well as the province and country in general, and I have been able to develop contacts with people in my field of interest that I hope to continue into the future.