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 in press) 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 setting out to test the insights in empirical settings, like renewable energy (Chappell, Parkins and Sherren 2020) and coastal adaptation. Watch this space.
Sherren, K. in press. From climax thinking toward a non-equilibrium approach to public good landscape change. in, Energy Impacts: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of North American Energy Development, co-edited by Jeffrey Jacquet, Julia Haggerty and Gene Theodori (forthcoming mid 2020 from 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.
Krysta Sutton is currently working on her MES 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, a SSHRC Graduate Scholarship and SSHRC project funds (Parkins PI).