Research on landscape change in the context of hydroelectricity in New Brunswick and dykelands in Nova Scotia generated a new concept called climax thinking. I have been developing this idea since 2016, workshopped with support from folks like the NSF Energy Impacts coordination network and their 2017 Energy Impacts Symposium. The foundational chapter (Sherren 2021) and some of the early empirical use of this concept are finally starting to emerge (Chappell, Parkins and Sherren, 2020).
Climax thinking riffs on succession theory to explore the implications of misplaced belief that our landscape is in its ‘climax’ state. Looking at previous landscapes as early, more primitive pioneers, building to our current apex of experience causes us in the West to feel that we our current landscape dominate the future. The burden of maintaining our comfortable stasis is then pushed onto less powerful others in other places. Preliminary causes of this fallacious thinking have been pathologized, and potential leverage points described (Sherren in press), and I am now testing the principles in empirical settings, like renewable energy (Chappell, Parkins and Sherren 2020, 2021), coastal adaptation and flood risk mapping. Watch this space.
Chappell, Ellen N., Parkins John R., and Sherren, K. (2021) Those who support wind development in view of their home take responsibility for their energy use and that of others: evidence from a multi-scale analysis. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning. [Download survey PDFs: Control Survey final, Experimental Survey Final]
Sherren, K. 2021. From climax thinking toward a non-equilibrium approach to public good landscape change. p. 17-44 in, Energy Impacts: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of North American Energy Development, co-edited by Jeffrey Jacquet, Julia Haggerty and Gene Theodori (Social Ecology Press & Utah State University Press)
Chappell, Ellen N., Parkins John R., and Sherren, K. (2020) Climax thinking, place attachment, and utilitarian landscapes: Implications for wind energy development. Landscape and Urban Planning, 199, 103802. [Download survey PDFs: Control Survey final, Experimental Survey Final]
Samantha Howard’s 2020-2021 Environmental Science undergraduate Masters thesis uses climax thinking as a theoretical framework for her survey of Bridgewater and Liverpool, Nova Scotia, residents about their perceptions of publicly available flood risk mapping.
Krysta Sutton completed her MES in 2020 using climax thinking in the context of coastal adaptation in Nova Scotia, funded by the Ocean Frontiers Institute and an NRCan Climate Change Adaptation Fund project (van Proosdij, PI) called Making Room for Movement.
Ellen Chappell (MES 2019) worked on wind energy transitions in the Tantramar area of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia using climax thinking as a theoretical framework, funded by a SRES Legacy Scholarship, an NSGS, a SSHRC Graduate Scholarship and SSHRC project funds (Parkins PI).