Collaboration is hard. Listening, really listening to another person’s point of view that is different from your own is difficult. This is one of the hardest and most rewarding aspects of being involved with Hanford. I don’t like nuclear waste production, be it from nuclear weapons or nuclear power. Yet a lot of the people I work with are pro-nuclear. The great thing about Hanford is the focus on cleanup. We can put our pro- and anti-nuclear positions to the side and work together on getting the nuclear mess cleaned up. That doesn’t mean we don’t get bogged down in disagreements about whether or not putting caps over waste sites will keep the waste from moving, or the methodology for determining how many parts per billion of x contaminant is “safe.” But disagreement can be great. It forces you to really figure out where you stand on an issue and why you have that opinion.
One thing I have realized is that loyalty plays a big role at Hanford in disagreement around scientific opinion. I trust who I trust for a reason and I believe what they tell me when the content is over my head. (And a lot of Hanford is over my head.) The same is true for people in opposing viewpoints. Sometimes the process of talking it out, or arguing, gets us to new places of agreement and consensus that changes cleanup policy. And for some issues it doesn’t.
It helps me in this work to focus on the relationships I make with folks in the Hanford universe and get to know people outside of their positions and opinions. No matter what we agree or disagree about, most of the time we can find something that ties us together while we sit and have a drink. And when so many of us spend most of our time working on Hanford issues, it is REALLY important to sit back and enjoy each other’s company.
By: Liz Mattson