RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016

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261 Nexus Thinking in an Energised Rural Geography (2)
Affiliation Energy Geographies Research Group
Rural Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Jennifer Dickie (University of Stirling, UK)
Martin Phillips (University of Leicester, UK)
Chair(s) Jennifer Dickie (University of Stirling, UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Session abstract Energy has been a key, if often poorly recognised aspect of rurality. Rural areas, for example, have long been important sites of energy production, be this in the form of animal power and biomass, mineral based hydrocarbons, nuclear power, or renewable forms of energy. Whilst much of this production flows in various ways to urban centres, rural life and activities also involves the consumption of energy, with per capita levels of energy consumption being higher in rural areas than urban ones within many counties, including the UK. Growing energy demands have seen many rural areas become spaces of social contestation, with conventional, renewable and unconventional energy production all becoming the focus of resistance and protest. Concerns over the impact of energy consumption of the world's climate have not only added to contestations over energy production but have also raised questions about sustainability of current practices of energy consumption in the countryside. Rural areas, however, may also be important sites for the mitigation of the impacts of energy use, containing many forms of 'carbon sinks', although also being places impacted by some of the consequences of climate change. Such features suggest that there is a need to energise rural geography, developing a greater recognition of how energy acts to condition much of life in rural areas. Nexus thinking may well be a key aspect of an energised rural geography, because developments in energy production, distribution and consumption frequently connect in complex and often countervailing ways with many other constituents of rural space. Concerns, for example, have been expressed about the impacts of renewable energy production on the availability of land for food production, the quality of water supplies and the aesthetic value of rural landscapes, with the latter issues also being the focus of concern in relation to the extraction of unconventional hydrocarbons. Attempts to foster a transition to a low carbon economy may not only be difficult to implement, but also act to heighten transitions such as commuting and rural gentrification which further foster carbon energy dependencies. Papers in this session explore the value of nexus thinking to the study of energy related geographies in rural contexts. Papers explore the nexus relations and tensions across a range of energy networks and rural spaces within Australia, Denmark and India, as well as the UK
Linked Sessions Nexus Thinking in an Energised Rural Geography (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
When worlds collide: nexuses and fractures in rural engagements with energy science, governance and place impacts
Ian Bailey (Plymouth University, UK)
Magdalini Kechagia (Plymouth University, UK)
Nichola Harmer (University of Plymouth, UK)
Recent years have seen significant interest in the roll-out of 'new' energy technologies, such as small-scale wind and solar farms and hydraulic fracturing, in rural areas. Place attachment has become a well-established lens for analysing the cognitive and affective processes through which rural residents form opinions on siting decisions for these technologies. Drawing on recent UK experiences with renewable energy and fracking proposals, I argue for two extensions of this approach to further explorations of nexuses and ruptures created by the deployment of new energy technologies in rural areas. The first concerns the partial 're-disaggregation' of place attachment to deepen understandings of how some disruptions to the valued attributes of rural places become alleviated as developments are assimilated into the fabric of local meanings, while others continue to be seen (by some) as discordant with rural place-based values. The second explores the broader challenges to rural communities emanating from nexuses between: (i) the place-disruptive potential of 'new' energy technologies: (ii) understandings of these technologies and the pressures driving their expansion; and (ii) comprehensions of – and the ability to navigate – the governance processes through which decisions are made on whether, in what forms, and where such technologies should be located. Sustained analysis of such nexuses and areas of fragmentation, I argue, are crucial in developing fuller understandings of the implications of energy transitions for rural areas and their residents.
Values and assumptions in bioenergy debates: A politics of knowledge analysis of 'waste' and marginality within UK agricultural systems
Rebecca Whittle (Lancaster University, UK)
Neil Simcock (The University of Manchester, UK)
Hanneke Mol (Northumbria University, UK)
Vasiliki Petousi (University of Crete, Greece)
Irini Theodorakopoulou (Greek Agricultural Organisation DIMITRA)
Eugenia Petropoulou (University of Crete, Greece)
Bioenergy is often presented as a long-term, environmentally beneficent and economically viable source of low-carbon energy (IEA, 2012; Sims, 2002; Welfe et al, 2014). In the EU, mandatory targets set by the Renewable Energy Directive (EC, 2009) established that, by 2020, 20 per cent of the EU's overall energy supply should come from renewables, with slightly differentiated individual targets for each Member State. However, concerns have been raised over the adverse consequences that land use change to bioenergy crop production may provoke. Such concerns have pushed the debate toward the idea of growing bioenergy crops on so-called 'marginal land'. For example, Fargione (2008: 14) writes that tensions between biofuel production and food security can be lifted by targeting 'idle agricultural land, marginal lands, wastes and residues and intensification of current production'. The idea that 'waste' products and 'marginal' land can be utilised in this way is a seductive proposition for policy makers looking for solutions to the apparent conflict of interest between food and energy security. However, as noted by Shortall (2013), the reality is more complex than this, as the concept and discourse of marginal land are the subjects of considerable controversy themselves. In this paper, we combine policy analysis with qualitative data from UK farmers and stakeholders to examine how concepts of waste and marginality are understood and mobilized within agricultural systems in relation to biofuels development. Our results reveal complex interrelationships, not only between food and fuel production but also between the ecological sustainability of the countryside and the financial viability of farming in the UK.
Making space for wind farms: Practices of territorial stigmatisation in rural Denmark
David Rudolph (Technical University of Denmark, Denmark)
Julia Kirch Kirkegaard (Technical University of Denmark, Denmark)
Whilst issues of siting wind farms have mostly revolved around their public acceptance resulting from an unequal distribution of local costs and benefits, the perceived fairness of the planning process and the disruption of places, the challenge of finding adequate locations and getting access to the land for large wind projects in the first place is becoming increasingly significant. This matter becomes particularly relevant in small countries with relatively mature wind energy sectors, such as Denmark. Although the Danish Renewable Energy Act provides unique measures that allow for greater community involvement and ownership of wind farms, access to diminishing spatial resources reflects a key concern for developers, while putting the role of private landowners at the core of successful projects. By drawing on case studies from rural Northern Denmark it will be demonstrated how narratives of territorial stigmatisation are mobilised and aligned by developers and municipalities in order to make space for and legitimise large wind farm projects in rural areas. In doing so, the paper will illustrate how stigmatisation practices are embedded in discourses of rurality as 'Outskirts-Denmark' that generate a division between areas of energy production and consumption. In more practical terms, it will be shown that 'new development practices' of mapping suitable areas, and purchasing and demolishing properties in marginalised rural areas may not only reflect mechanisms of an evolved wind energy industry, but also allow wind farm developers to avoid conflicts by expediting depopulation.
Coal Seam Gas – Villain or Saviour ? Competing visions of land use in Narrabri Shire, NSW, Australia
Meg Sherval (The University of Newcastle, Australia)
Land is central to the present and future livelihood of rural communities in Australia. It is also fundamental to physical and emotional well-being, a sense of community and a sense of self. Land uses reflect social and economic interests at local, regional and national scales, and, as Labin et al. (2001:266) argue, land use and land cover change is driven by 'individual and social responses to economic conditions, mediated by institutional factors'. In Australia, battlelines have recently been drawn across rural spaces as governments seek to accommodate a burgeoning hydrocarbon industry in the form of coal seam gas (CSG) extraction. While this industry is welcomed by some, it is also feared by others including farmers who question its legitimacy and the potential danger it may pose to local water sources, agricultural produce and long-term human health. Essentially, these land use conflicts reflect the competing visions and ambitions held by various stakeholders who are fighting not only to ensure their version of the region's future but also to redefine the long-term character of the local region and its community.
Discussant
Darren McCauley (University of St Andrews, UK)
Discussant