Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: renewable energy (Page 1 of 2)

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’.

November omnibus

View of the North Onslow dyke realignment and tidal wetland restoration project site, first big tide after dyke breach, Nov 8, 2021.

View of the North Onslow dyke realignment and tidal wetland restoration project site, first big tide after dyke breach, Nov 8, 2021.

As in October, I have been too busy to blog this month but plenty has been happening. Gillian Kerr started working for ResNet L1 part time as a research associate to help with data stewardship and knowledge exchange. ResNet HQP Emily Wells and partner CMM’s Kara Pictou did a pilot interview for their shared work on Traditional Knowledge and climate change and the interviews are coming next. We had the first committee meeting for Keahna Margeson’s OGEN IDPhD about coastal adaptation, which includes an interdisciplinary team across SRES, Information Management, Planning, Kings, and the National Research Council.  I made it up to see the Truro Onslow dyke realignment and tidal wetland restoration project (the one covered in this OECD report and this paper) during the last set of ‘high’ high tides, after the dyke was finally breached. The above photo was taken then, around 4:30 pm, and the bird life in the flooded former dykeland was cacophonous! A good sign for the biodiversity benefits of this ambitious project as well as the climate resilience benefits.

Former postdoc, HM Tuihedur Rahman, who led the paper linked above about the Truro case study, also led another recent paper in Climate Risk Management that features among the three other authors two of my lab alumni, former postdoc Wesley Tourangeau and PhD alum Bernard Soubry. Great to see such synthesis work emerging from trainees working directly together: A framework for using autonomous adaptation as a leverage point in sustainable climate adaptation.

Finally, I had fun participating in the book launch for the recent volume co-edited by Susana Batel and David Rudolph, A critical approach to the social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructures, published this year by Palgrave McMillin and available free online. Frequent collaborator John Parkins and I wrote a chapter in that volume with MES alum Ellen Chappell about the value of quantitative methods in critical social acceptance work on energy. The event was fascinating, and to my surprise the critical perspective of some presenters about renewable energy was in tension with the fast transition discourse coming from COP26.

Screensnap during the Nov 17, 2021, book launch for Batel and Rudolph (2021)... before the Zoom bombing event.

Screensnap during the Nov 17, 2021, book launch for Batel and Rudolph (2021)… before the Zoom bombing event.

Climax thinking on the Tantramar

Images of landscape change in the Tantramar/Chignecto used in research led by Ellen Chappell

Images of landscape change in the Tantramar/Chignecto used in research led by Ellen Chappell

Thrilled today to see Ellen Chappell’s first MES paper out in Landscape and Urban Planning, the pre-eminent journal for landscape research, titled ‘Climax thinking, place attachment, and utilitarian landscapes: Implications for wind energy development‘. She explored the natural experiment that happened in the Tantramar/Chignecto area on the isthmus between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia when the Radio Canada International towers came down around the same time as the Sprott Wind Farm went up (images d and e, opposite). She used climax thinking theory in a randomized population mailout survey to understand how residents of the area experienced the loss of utilitarian infrastructure, much of which is now only vestigial, and the addition of wind turbines. Attachment to such infrastructures was not correlated with place attachment or time in place, surprisingly. It turned out that conservatives and males are most attached to that utilitarian infrastructure of the past–they were well established in their ‘climax landscape’–but also that people could acquire attachment to wind turbines in a similar way. Those with higher climax thinking (in terms of attachment to those vestigial utilitarian features) who could see wind turbines from their home currently were more supportive of more wind energy. So, as we found last year in a national survey, exposure to energy infrastructure is an important leverage point to renewable energy support.

Congratulations, Ellen!

Ellen Chappell with me after her successful defense Monday, June 17, 2019.

Ellen Chappell with me after her successful defense Monday, June 17, 2019.

Congratulations to Ellen Chappell, who was first in her cohort to defend her MES this past Monday: she set a high bar indeed. The defense was well-timed to come after she presented the work at the Energy Research & Social Science conference at the end of May in Tempe, Arizona, and immediately before a Dal-based Clean Tech Research event. Thanks to committee member John Parkins and examiner Heather Braiden for engaging richly in Ellen’s work, despite calling in, and chair Peter Tyedmers and the sizable and engaged audience for managing to make it an event despite having so few committee members present in the flesh.

Ellen’s work explores the connections people have to landscape features that were created for specific uses, even when those uses fade, and what those kinds of connections mean for new landscape additions, specifically wind turbines. She made the first tests of climax thinking in her Chignecto Isthmus case study, and provided some encouraging results. We’ll be expanding on those results next week, when first-year MES Krysta Sutton and I start running our focus groups with coastal residents around Nova Scotia about climate adaptation options.

« Older posts

© 2024 Kate Sherren

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑