International Association for Impact Assessment


  • Learn more about winner Luis Montañez-Cartaxo.

    IAIA CEO Gary Baker sat down with long-time IAIA member Luis Montañez-Cartaxo, recipient of the 2024 award for Outstanding Service to IAIA. Find the full transcript below.

    Gary Baker:  Hello, again. We are back once more learning a bit about our award winners for 2024. Of all the awards out there, one that I'm proudest about and I think we take most interest in is the Outstanding Service to IAIA Award for those people who have donated so much of their time and volunteered much of their activities to IAIA. I'm really delighted to be joined by our 2024 winner, Luis Montañez-Cartaxo, who I'm sure many of you already know, will have worked with, will have spoken with, will have seen. So it's a slightly different interview perhaps, but nonetheless, very important. So Luis, welcome. Can you talk a little bit about your very long history with IAIA? What are some of the highlights that you would particularly point out or that you've particularly enjoyed?

    Luis Montañez-Cartaxo:  Yes, thank you very much, Gary, for this interview. I would say that I have worked with so many intelligent people in IAIA, coming from different countries, ethnic origins, and ways of doing things. I'm very pleased that I have worked in parallel and with several presidents of IAIA in the past -- Ross Marshall, Charlotte Bingham, Sachihiko Harashina, Nick Taylor, Jonathan Allotey, Stephen Lintner, and recently with Sarah Bice, Marla Orenstein, Ben Cave, and many others, on these Board groups. I have learned a lot from them. I am very pleased it has fulfilled my professional life. Not only networking at that level, but networking at many other levels is one of the biggest highlights of IAIA.

    I presented in my first forum in 2004 in Vancouver. It was very, very interesting. I was also the leader of the organizing committee of the IAIA11 conference in Puebla, Mexico. Although every conference is of a very high level, I still hear some say, ‘well, that was really at the top with some others.’ I'm very pleased to hear that from older members. I have worked translating many of the papers published by IAIA into Spanish. I have worked with them here in Mexico with courses and conferences, and I always put IAIA in front of my speeches. Nowadays there are one or two special symposium every year, but the first time we had a symposium besides the international annual conference was in Calgary in 2008 -- I was there and that was also a highlight in my life in IAIA.

    I think that the relationship with IAIA staff has been really fantastic. I heard, as many others, that the basketball group of the USA was the “Dream Team.” No, the Dream Team is this staff.

    Gary: I can only agree on that one.  You mentioned a lot of the people, very seen, experienced people, that you worked with over the years. How have you seen maybe the industry itself? How has impact assessment changed, and IAIA within that? You've seen a lot through those 20, 25 years. Anything that you would particularly point to?

    Luis:  Yes, I think there are some issues that I would like to point out. I think that in IA, environmental impact assessment should be there as the main core, the core of the issues regarding impact assessment. We have now health impact assessment, social impact assessment, sustainability assessment, strategic environmental assessment. But as many others have talked about in IA conferences, we should go back to basics. Environmental impact assessment should cover all these aspects and not be stratified or put in silos, like every other type of assessment. I think the systems thinking should be more brought up to the front line in order to understand the way the impact assessment should be followed and practiced. I think that public participation, at least in my country and many others here in Latin America, is still behind the level in other countries. There are many indigenous people here, and so it's more difficult to talk with them because many of them don't speak Spanish either. It's really a very interesting thing, that we should go through and raise the level. The environmental impact assessment follow-up is one issue that
    has remained behind the other issues in environmental and liberal development. Although, the first conference I went to was in 2002 in The Hague in the Netherlands. I participated there as a learner in two or three sessions on follow -up and they were very good, with Angus Morrison-Saunders teaching and Jill Baker. As you can see, there's a tendency towards simplification of environmental impact assessment. In the last year, one of the issues of the IAPA Journal touched on this issue. I don't see it as a good way for the future. Simplification may just put environmental impact assessment aside or almost aside. So it shouldn't be so. I know that technology, like geographical information systems and computer modeling and all these things, have helped do environmental practices better, but I think that the main thing is how to do it right with our brains.

    Gary:  Judgement and experience. I agree. One final thought -- at the heart of IAIA is this volunteering ethos, and this award really acknowledges and reflects that.  If you had a word to say to young professionals coming up about the real benefits of being a volunteer and getting involved in the business of IAIA, what would you say that you've enjoyed?

    Luis: Well, first of all, I think that working with other people from so many different origins and ways of thinking -- you can work inside the groups, the technical Sections of IAIA, with so many people, learn so much, get more information and make not only professional ties, but you can make friends for all your life. I have a lot of life friends in many countries thanks to IAIA meetings. There's a lot of people who come to an association and think, what can this association bring me or give me? No, you should look the other way around. What can you do for the association in order to disseminate the better practices?

    Gary:  That is very well said, and I do like that sentiment and maybe that's a pretty fitting way to say A) thank you very much for all your service, and B) a very richly deserved award. I look forward to continuing these conversations outside of this, and thank you again Luis for telling us a little bit more about your experiences.
    Luis:  Thank you very much. Have a good day.

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