Our national energy project implemented Q-method interviews in Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick, where participants sorted a concourse of statements about energy beliefs, preferences and tradeoffs. A new paper in Environmental Sociology, Identifying energy discourses in Canada with Q methodology: moving beyond the environment versus economy debates, led by University of Alberta colleague John Parkins, discusses the five emergent discourses and their implications for advancing complex energy debates. It will be interesting to see how these discourses align, or not, with the large n (p-set) national sorting survey of the same statements that was implemented online last year. The abstract follows:
Drawing inspiration from the literature on social imaginaries and cultural models, this study explores contending perspectives on energy and sustainability, moving beyond a simplistic understanding of support or opposition to specific energy developments. With a comparative study in three regions of Canada, we use Q methodology to identify five key discourses on energy issues: (1) climate change is a primary concern, (2) maintain the energy economy, (3) build on the resilience of nature and local energy systems, (4) markets and corporations will lead and (5) renewable energy sources are the path forward. We find several under-examined perspectives on energy and society – one discourse that attempts to balance growth in the energy economy with environmental concern and another discourse that promotes the resilience of natural and local energy systems. We also find a proclivity towards science, ingenuity and technological innovation as a strategy to resolve contemporary challenges in the energy sector. This study helps to elaborate energy policy conversations beyond the common environment versus economy tropes. The study also reveals opportunities to forge common ground and mutual understanding on complex debates.