Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: Energy (Page 1 of 20)

New paper on salience mapping of energy infrastructure

Figure 1 in Mohammadi et al (2023), showing the novel sequence of work in PhotoShop, Matlab and GIS to understand how energy infrastructure affects a view.

Really nice to see a paper come out this week in Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal from Mehrnoosh Mohammadi’s MES thesis on renewable energy infrastructure in amenity (specifically vineyard) landscapes. This is the kind of thing that happens when a landscape architect joins your lab. This work involved a creative sequence of PhotoShop (to remove energy infrastructure seen in Instagram images taken at vineyards), Matlab (to calculate visual saliency), and ArcGIS analysis to understand the change in salience wrought by the removal. Cool stuff! This started out as a research note at submission, but got upgraded by the editor: A saliency mapping approach to understanding the visual impact of wind and solar infrastructure in amenity landscapes. Thanks to PhD student Yan Chen and former postdoc H. M. Tuihedur Rahman for helping out on this work.

Meddylfryd yr anterth

A quick thanks to the PloCC (Places of Climate Change) network at the University of Bangor, Wales, for the invitation to present to their monthly seminar series on Nov 9th. I spoke about climax thinking (the title of this post is its Welsh translation, literally, “the mentality of the peak” according to Google Scholar) using examples from wind energy, coastal adaptation and flood-risk mapping (highlighting work by past and current graduate students Kristina Keilty, Ellen Chappell, Krysta Sutton and Samantha Howard). Thanks to the effort PloCC took to translate my abstract, I’ll share it here for any Welsh speakers who discover this page.

Trosiad yw meddylfryd yr anterth am wrthwynebiad i newid y dirwedd er lles y cyhoedd. Deilliodd o ymchwil seiliedig ar le yn Nghanada Atlantig. Yn yr un modd â damcaniaeth olyniaeth mewn ecoleg, rydym yn aml yn credu bod tirweddau mewn cyflwr delfrydol neu ecwilibriwm (h.y. yr anterth), ac y dylid dychwelyd ato ar ôl pob aflonyddwch megis trychinebau naturiol. Mae angen inni symud at ffordd ddi-ecwilibriwm o feddwl am dirwedd o ystyried yr heriau a wynebwn o ran cynaliadwyedd a’r goblygiadau posibl i’r dirwedd. Dyma gyflwyniad sy’n rhannu gwaith achos ynglŷn â gosod ynni’r gwynt, enciliad yr arfordir a mapio perygl llifogydd i symud o lefel y canlyniad (gwrthiant) i lefel y broses (achosion) y syniad newydd hwn, a’r goblygiadau i ymchwil ac ymarfer.

Topically, a great example of climax thinking came into my morning news media today, in the local rejection of government-funded wind turbines to help Stewart Island, NZ, get off of diesel generators. As the term otherwise hurtles to a close, and I look ahead to the Restoring America’s Estuaries conference in New Orleans the first full week of December, I’m keeping my eye to related media. I look particularly forward to the NYT reporting about this call for experiences of disaster rebuilding. A final note, do yourself a favour and read Rutger Breman’s book Humankind; I listened to the audiobook through the Halifax’s library’s Libby app on a long bus trip and it made me feel much better.

Coming soon… Power of Landscape

Just in time for Christmas, I see that the new book by Oudes, Stremke and Picchi to which I contributed an essay is now available to order. It will be a beautiful offering: the Europeans generally do books beautifully, but particularly so here thanks to the architects leading the project and their attention to visual detail. Edge to edge photos, maps and essays from some of the most interesting folks in Energy thinking. I am delighted to be involved and looking forward to my copy landing in October. My essay reflects on some of my early work on climax thinking and what it means for progress in energy transitions, with a few accompanying photos from case study locations in New Brunswick (the Mactaquac dam headpond) and Nova Scotia (the Tantramar outside Amherst).

Renewed resistance to wind energy in NS

The Amherst wind farm emerges from a blizzard as my train carriage whips past, April 2022.

Interesting to see new resistance emerging to wind energy in NS, using disappointingly familiar language. For instance, in Inverness County last week, to paraphrase, we’re not opposed to wind energy, of course, but this is the wrong place for it. A few weeks ago I submitted a letter to a process that was underway in the Municipality of Cumberland to review their wind turbine regulations, as a result of conflict over the proposed Higgins Mountain wind project. I drew on research by MES students Ellen Chappell and Mehrnoosh Mohammadi in that letter (it is included as Appendix C, p. 46-47,  in Plan Cumberland’s Public Engagement report of their review).  Ellen’s thesis work showed that wind energy support is quite strong in the Amherst area, even among those who can see wind turbines currently. Mehrnoosh’s work on renewable energy in amenity landscapes like vineyards showed that visitors accept that landscapes are for more than just the reason they are visiting. In fact, if vineyards brag about their energy infrastructure, it is possible that visitors will see it as an asset. Resistance threatens the next phase of Nova Scotia’s energy transition, and is characteristic of climax thinking: erroneously believing that our landscapes are in a final and stable state. A few highlights to my letter to Plan Cumberland follow:

I believe it is important to transition to what is often called a ‘multifunctional’ landscape norm, where we allow for a layering of energy into other land uses. In Canada we have not had to do much of this yet thanks to our large area, but others have. In NS we must learn how to as our population grows and electrification proceeds to reduce carbon emissions. Evidence from some national survey work I have collaborated on (also attached) suggests it is good for us to be exposed to the energy sources on which we depend. This strengthens our support for renewable modes, and may in fact inspire decisions to conserve energy, which I’ll talk more about next. The truth is that energy has a footprint—and deserves a footprint—in our lives. Hiding that footprint only makes us less likely to understand our dependency and its costs. …

… When it came to trying to predict people’s willingness to have wind energy in view of their home the two strongest predictors were agreement to the following two statements:
• Seeing wind turbines from my home reminds me that electricity I use has to be generated somewhere.
• Energy is just a commodity; if we can develop it to sell elsewhere (e.g. New England), then we should.
… those who agreed to both statements have made a shift in their thinking: putting energy alongside other regional commodities as viable for export beyond local needs (as they do in more established energy-producing regions and potentially enabling a more resilient regional grid), while taking responsibility for bearing the costs of their own energy consumption too. …

Survey responses speak to the importance of being willing to tackle new challenges and seize new opportunities rather than hide from them by trying to hold landscapes as they are—particularly those designed for needs other than the ones we face today—or otherwise trying to exclude energy from ideas of what our landscape is ‘for’.

Cluster of panel roles

Show the first page of the slide show from NSIS event

Screensnap from the NSIS event on Feb 7, 2022

It has been a busy start of term, and I am startled to see it is my first posting in 2022, though the first of several in quick succession. Today was the last of a spate of online roles in the last 8 days, all of which were enjoyable. First up was a guest spot talking about social science to the students of Dalhousie’s NSERC CREATE  in Leadership in Energy Sustainability (LES). That group is largely comprised of engineers but demonstrated great curiosity and asked great questions of me and my highly complementary co-panelist Tamara Krawchenko from UVic. Kudos to CRC II Karen Foster for coordinating and chairing.

That evening, I enjoyed participating as part of a ResNet-themed panel for the Nova Scotia Institute of Science. Colleagues Jeremy Lundholm (SMU), Danika van Proosdij (SMU), Alana Pindar (CBU) and I talked about the work of Landscape 1 of ResNet, and specifically the different pieces of the ecosystem services ‘puzzle’ associated with dykeland decision-making. This one is recorded, with me and Jeremy in this video, and Alana and Danika (as well as questions) in this one.

The following day, though it wasn’t a panel , I really enjoyed participating in the online Rangeland Social Science gathering, an informal event that happens pretty regularly in combination with the Society for Range Management meeting (this year happening in Albuquerque, NM). Particularly delightful was a break-out group on rangeland culture with Maria Fernandez-Gimenez, Brooke McWherter, and Katie Walsh. We’re remarkably practiced now at engaging productively online with new people, a skill I hope we hold onto (within reason) to reduce the environmental impact of academic travel.

Finally, this morning, I played the anchor role in a morning-long symposium on Coastal Zone Change in Atlantic Canada run by the Dalhousie Coastal Hydrology Lab run by Dr. Barret Kurylyk (also a ResNet colleague). That event included ResNet people including HQP Nicole LeRoux, Danika van Proosdij, as well as Patricia Manuel, collaborator in TransCoastal Adaptations and OGEN. It is a small world here in Nova Scotia.

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