Indications of anti-environmentalism are pervasive throughout North America. Considering the climate crisis, for example, an article in the Calgary Herald stated that over half of Albertans disapprove of the ‘Government’s climate change strategy’ (Wood, 2016), of which wind and solar development is a key component. Furthermore, climate concern is often lacking within many Alberta communities, with one study indicating that ‘Alberta residents are the least likely [in Canada] to believe the planet is warming’ (Meyer, 2018). In settings like this, with clear opposition to climate policies, resistance to renewable energy is often depicted as an anti-environmentalist sentiment. Although it is tempting to characterize local opposition to wind power in this way, in this chapter we dig more deeply into local concerns about wind power and examine concerns expressed by people who live in and around these wind energy landscapes. Two questions are at the heart of this analysis. First, is it fair to characterize wind power opposition in Alberta as anti-environmentalist? Second, depending on how we answer this question, what are the implications for making progress on renewable energy? Attending to this distinction between environmentalism and anti-environmentalism has bearing on energy transitions, because it helps to clarify the nature of oppositional discourses and can assist in developing constructive responses. On one hand, if resistance to wind power represents a straightforward case of anti-environmentalism, then a reasonable response might involve pushing back against this agenda and characterizing this type of resistance as an illegitimate barrier to energy transition. On the other hand, if resistance to wind power represents something other than anti-environmentalism, then a reasonable response might involve a deeper appreciation for local resistance, a desire to learn more about local concerns, and a commitment to ameliorating them. This chapter offers a path towards resolving these questions, starting with detailed definitions of environmentalism and anti-environmentalism.
This study uses data from a vignette experiment (n=401) of large-scale agricultural landowners in western Canada to quantify attributes that enhance acceptance of wind farms on their own land or in their municipality. Analysis addresses the role of community relationships and procedural fairness in the development of wind power. Random effects models indicate that landowners are more accepting of wind power if such projects include local and/or cooperative ownership, compensation payments to neighbouring landowners, and community involvement in the development process. Results suggest that perceived injustices could be lessened if fairness considerations extend beyond monetary gain.
Recent commentaries on the corpus of social acceptability research around renewable energy have identified the need for critical approaches that move beyond individualist and positivist methodologies. Many energy-related behaviours, much like the landscapes in which they play out, are recursively recreated and institutionalized as they are enacted, limiting the emergence and success of alternatives. We believe that quantitative methods—particularly household surveys—can generate relevant insights and illustrate this with recent quantitative surveys on energy transitions that explore, among other things, issues of materiality, social location and norms. We provide empirical examples of specific approaches for doing such work (e.g. question wording, experimental design) and make recommendations for a more fulsome engagement with critical approaches within a more positivist paradigm of data gathering.
While shifting electricity production to renewable sources is of critical importance in addressing global climate change, the costs of such development are often felt locally. This study explores what leads to support for wind development when respondents are asked to think about three different geographic scales: general, regional and within view of their home. Research was conducted in the Chignecto area of Atlantic Canada, a semi-rural area in which a prominent 15-turbine wind farm was constructed in 2012. A random population mail-out survey achieved a response rate of 40%. Questions explored exposure to wind turbines; support for wind energy development; place attachment; beliefs concerning the distribution of energy and benefits; and demographics. While most predictors of support are significant in bivariate correlations, many commonly used predictors of wind support, such as place attachment or community benefits, disappear or weaken under controls as predictors of support at smaller scales. Novel predictors of support inspired by climax thinking emerged as stronger at more local scales, including support for energy export beyond local needs and agreement that wind turbines provide a reminder of energy use. These results suggest new pathways for understanding support for wind development within the communities most directly affected.
As renewable energy technologies evolve, how we think and talk about energy landscapes is also changing. Energy discourses shape our thinking, our reactions, and our sense of what is desirable or undesirable in the surrounding landscape. Understanding discourses as the subconscious organization of collectively held values and mental models (Lakoff, 2008) this chapter advances methodological innovations to identify subtle variations in discourses on energy production within and between regions of Canada. Two questions provide guidance for this study. Given that discourses on energy development are often context specific, are there ways of gaining local insight while also maintaining comparability across larger populations? What are the implications of better understanding regional and national-level discourses on energy development for transition to low-carbon energy futures? To answer these questions, we present results from mixed methods, involving Q methodology and a national survey of Canadian citizens. Ideas about norms are particularly relevant to this chapter, especially as they relate to personal expectations, aspirations, and a general sense of what is allowable and acceptable within energy landscapes. Furthermore, an analysis of discourses can offer insight into the ideologically mediated encounters with energy landscapes and the ways in which our ideas, expectations and aspirations can lock in a set of assumptions and preferences for future energy systems. As Malm’s (2016) historical analysis reminds us, however, culture and discourse offers tools to imagine something new, something other than business-as-usual, and perhaps some indication of how change can become imaginable. Building on these concepts, our results suggest that a singular and overarching set of governing logics, a national discourse, and associated tensions within the discourse are present and observable across national and regional scales. What we observe in the data (in spite of significant Canadian regional differences in energy technologies and policies) is a high degree of alignment between regional discourses and national discourses. The national discourse on energy development in Canada tends to overwhelm all of the variation that might exist within a local setting. We conclude with a discussion about overarching governing logics, ways of thinking and knowing about the world that are consistent with dominant ideas about capital, markets, corporate actors, and collective responsibilities. • Mixed-methods include a national survey of energy discourses and Q methodology conducted in three Canadian provinces (Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick). • With possibilities for diverse points of view to emerge within regions where energy technologies and policies differ, our study finds limited variation in discursive material across these regions. • We conclude that discourses around energy developments are almost entirely trapped by ideologies of neoliberalism and global logics of fossil capital.
Alberta is abundant in wind resources and there is great potential for new wind farm development in the province. However, while wind farms power both urban and rural energy consumption, their impacts are felt overwhelmingly by rural communities. Compared to other energy sources, support for wind power among rural landowners in Alberta is low, and without their support, expansion of wind power in Alberta will remain slow. This report summarizes the key concerns of rural landowners so that communities are empowered to explore more equitable opportunities for wind power.
While GHG emissions reduction is a key motivation for renewable energy development, it is not a motivator for rural Albertan landowners. This is because rural landowners are often skeptical of the climate crisis. More than 60% of those surveyed support the claim "we still do not know if climate change is real or human caused" and scientists/ academics are among the least trusted. How project proponents can address barriers to wind development in Alberta and build better relationships with rural landowners Alberta is abundant in wind resources and there is great opportunity for the expansion of wind power and reduction of GHG emissions in the province. However, support for wind power among rural landowners in Alberta is relatively low. This is a critical barrier to wind power development in Alberta, which depends largely on privately-owned land for development. This report sheds light on why rural landowners are less supportive of wind power, so wind energy proponents and regulators can better understand their values and concerns. To learn more about the survey, read the report here: https://www.ualberta.ca/resource-economics-environmental-sociology/research/project-reports/2020-2029.html
The engagement of residents in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) debates within regions in which extraction occurs is critically important for shaping fracking policies. Such engagement may be less likely to occur in such regions, however, due to social factors associated with fossil fuel dependence, or what has been termed petro-statism. Alberta, Canada, is just such a place, and we use survey data (N = 226) from a sample of residents in Lethbridge, Fox Creek, and Rosebud—three Alberta communities where local residents have experienced nearby proposed or active fracking for natural gas. We found the social capital attributes of trust and self-efficacy, as well as concern for the impacts of fracking, strongly predict public engagement in fracking issues in the three study sites. Annual household income, education, and working in the energy sector also shape citizens’ participation in fracking. Furthermore, we found that trust in particular institutions can have different levels of influence on personal and collective engagement.
Despite having abundant wind resources, the Province of Alberta is slow to adopt wind energy. While recent provincial government initiatives have stimulated some new wind power projects, progress is limited, and with new regulatory changes in recent months, progress on renewable energy development may slow even further. What are the barriers to renewable energy development in Alberta? This report offers some answers to this question based on survey results from rural Albertan landowners (n = 401). The survey was implemented in early 2019 and offers insight into the perspectives of rural landowners who are in a position to host energy technologies on their properties. These technologies might include oil and gas wells but also emerging technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels. Within the report we explore key barriers to the adoption of wind energy infrastructure in Alberta. An energy market analysis and literature review reveal few technical barriers, as there is sufficient capacity in the southern region, where wind feasibility is highest. The published literature also points to economic barriers related to price uncertainty, the competitiveness of other energy sources, and policy instability. Looking more closely at social barriers, evidence from the survey indicates that landowners are sharply divided in their support for the further development of wind farms in the province. Many concerns stem from a lack of knowledge about wind infrastructure impacts, as well as issues with the procedures for implementing wind development and the distribution of benefits. Encouraging and facilitating future development of wind projects in Alberta will require that proponents highlight the environmental and economic benefits of wind farms and focus on providing benefits to local communities.
Free for 50 days at https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1aoBNcUG5EeOu **** As a means of understanding responses to landscape change, the concept of climax thinking proposes that communities resist changes because individuals view their current landscape as in its optimal state. We examined perceptions of past landscape change to help predict support for future change in the context of wind energy in the Chignecto area, Atlantic Canada. Change is this region includes a wind farm built in 2012 and the longer-term loss of four landscape features: dykes from the 1600s are being modified due to rising seas, foundries from the 1800s no longer exist, most giant hay barns from the 1800s have collapsed, and radio towers from WWII were dismantled. To assess local responses to these changes, we designed and randomly distributed a mail survey. The survey asked about exposure to turbines, support for wind energy, and demographics. Half the sample received images and descriptions of the four previous features, accompanied by questions about fit in the landscape and sadness at loss. These items were combined to create a climax thinking scale. Regression analysis reveals neither place attachment nor time in the region to be predictors of climax thinking, while male gender and conservative politics increase climax thinking. Conservatism decreases support for wind energy among people who can’t see turbines from home and is not significant for people who can. Climax thinking increases wind support among people who can see them from home but is not significant for people who can’t. Implications of results for renewable energy transitions are explored.
Canada is one of the world's top five energy producers and, within Canada's energy sector, the bioenergy economy is rapidly expanding. This research was conducted to identify perceived risks, barriers, benefits, and opportunities relating to the development of biomass energy by Indigenous business leaders and/or their communities. Eighteen Indigenous business leaders from forestry, energy, and allied natural resource sectors were interviewed to understand their perspectives on bioenergy. Results included that views on bioenergy feasibility differed between business leaders in northern versus southern Canada. There was no agreement among business leaders as to risks and benefits (neutral, positive, negative) for Indigenous businesses and communities engaging in bioenergy initiatives. Many of the benefits of bioenergy were related by participants to opportunities for increasing community self-reliance and increasing connectedness to Canadian mainstream economic and governance systems. Indigenous-led policy interventions are especially important in new industries like bioenergy in the boreal where Indigenous traditional territories, communities and businesses intersect and thus are likely to be impacted by new developments and partnerships.
The aim of this chapter is to identify distinct discourses on energy development in the south-western region of Alberta and to identify areas of overlapping interest (common ground) that can serve as a focal point and a foothold for progress on participatory governance within this energy landscape.
Ultimately, this book accomplishes what it sets out to do, providing an analysis of Alberta’s identity as represented visually through documentary and media sources. The intended audience for this book includes those involved in environmental communication, environmental sociology, and human geography. The text provides a way of constructing complex narratives about identities, leaving the reader hopeful that there is no set trajectory or dead ends for resource-based regions like Alberta.
The use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract oil and gas has generated intense debates in many countries. While the volume of empirical research on fracking attitudes internationally has grown considerably, there remains a need to focus attention on local contexts in which fracking takes place given the high degrees of variability in factors affecting attitude formation at the local scale. The Province of Alberta is a focal point for oil and gas development in Canada, and fracking has been expanding rapidly here, but little research has been conducted on attitudes toward fracking in this province, particularly in communities located in fracking zones. Understanding local perspectives toward fracking is critically important for tailoring energy policies that reflect local interest and concern. We examine perspectives about fracking among residents in three Alberta municipalities, each of which has experienced unique political-economic relationships with the energy industry. Our results suggest that trust, knowledge, and gender (male) are positively associated with fracking support. Notably, in a high energy-dependence community, residents express strong support despite experience with the impacts of fracking, and trust is expressed differently toward government organizations across the three study sites, signalling the importance of local context to fracking attitudes.
With advances in renewable energy technology, decentralized and community scale energy projects are becoming more common. Rural and remote communities have unique interests in renewable energy as a source of revenue and a cost-saving measure to alleviate dependencies on more expensive alternatives. Other communities are interested in renewable energy as a component of sustainability objectives or as an opportunity to demonstrate innovation. Given these motivations, community energy is gaining interest. In this report, we define community energy and provide brief descriptions of 26 community energy projects in western Canada. Additionally, the report provides more detail on five community projects that include solar, wind, hydroelectricity, biogas, and geothermal technologies. The report highlights the design of community projects with attention to scale, ownership structures and links to community strategic plans. Case studies also illustrate challenges including economic sustainability and resistance to decentralized energy production from larger energy providers.
Large industrial projects change communities, landscapes, and ecosystems, with significant impacts for local people. But, conventional project evaluations often underestimate wide-ranging local interests, especially those of young people. To address this gap, we collected data from Instagram, where a younger demographic dominates the medium, focusing on two hydroelectricity proposals in Canada: the in-progress Site C Dam in British Columbia, and the 1960s Mactaquac Dam in New Brunswick. A year of landscape photos and captions from each were coded into thematic categories and linked based on statistical co-occurrence. Project impacts for this youth cohort can be predicted by identifying the values and activities statistically associated with the features likely to be affected by each proposal: dam construction will affect perceived esthetics and sense of home in Site C, and dam removal will cause lifestyle changes in Mactaquac. The advantages and drawbacks of this method are discussed including implications of such new data sources for social impact assessment. First 50 free at https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/dZvkq8q7AsZHneISxpnp/full?target=10.1080/08941920.2019.1587128
Fulltext https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/j.ctv19t41pj.4.pdf Many of us, when facing landscape change such as energy infrastructure development, often demonstrate a belief that we inhabit a 'climax' landscape. In successional terms, a climax landscape is defined here as one that is perceived by those who live in and use it to have reached a stable and ideal state after various stages of socio-cultural progress, from 'pioneers' on up, as humans met their needs through landscape modification. This chapter defines a new concept, climax thinking, that is making it difficult to adapt landscapes to new needs: e.g. renewable energy, climate adaptation, urban densification. Understanding and easing climax thinking could smooth the way for numerous sustainability transitions. While we often believe we will not be able to adapt to change in our landscapes, the opposite has been repeatedly demonstrated. Not only do our expectations and norms slowly change as generations replace one another, but landscape expectations and preferences can evolve even within the generation that has witnessed quick and dramatic change. Ecologists have debunked the idea of equilibrium in natural systems, and a similar development is needed in public perceptions of lived landscapes. This chapter describes climax thinking as a powerful illusion. It describes the pathology of climax thinking, and the need for a non-equilibrium model for managing public good change in lived landscapes, mapping to related theories and ideas in other fields. Finally, it proposes a cross-disciplinary research and action agenda to help avoid casting landscape futures around old needs and old solutions while maintaining sense of place, identity and cultural heritage.
A gap exists in cross-technology and large-scale research about public support for energy infrastructure, particularly the influence of exposure on attitudes. We used a national panel sample of Canadians to explore drivers of support across ten energy technologies, comparing predictors such as exposure, political views, environmental values and sectoral employment with controls for demographics and geography. Exposure to a specific infrastructure was associated with support for four technologies, only one of which was renewable (solar); the others were nuclear, oil from non-tar sand sources and coal, the last of which had the strongest effect with exposure doubling the likelihood of support. However, noticing any infrastructure at all boosted support for all renewable technologies included as well as natural gas, increasing the likelihood of support for key renewables (wind, hydroelectricity, and solar) by 61-76%. Beyond the importance of noticing infrastructure, our results demonstrate that energy technology support follows relatively predictable lines in Canada, save for a general lack of urban-rural divide in attitudes. Results suggest that hiding energy infrastructure may be a barrier to renewable energy transitions, but first we need: more nuanced measurements of exposure and noticing, to understand the direction of causality between such variables and support; and, to explore the roles of energy literacy and gender.
This study provides a portrait of the state of impact assessment (IA) research for four types of low carbon power production (wind, solar, small-scale hydro and small modular nuclear reactors). The emphasis is on IA research that has relevance to the Canadian policy setting. The method involved a systematized scan of the academic literature (peer reviewed publications, conference proceedings and book chapters) and reports and studies produced by government and other organizations. The literature was categorized according to a framework adapted from transition theory. The results indicate that the literature addressing wind power is comprehensive, but there is a relative scarcity of research (in both quantity and breadth) on the impacts of solar, small-scale hydro, and small modular reactors (SMRs). In each of these three energy areas there is a lack of available work addressing the social, political and cultural impacts accompanied by more specialized gaps in the biophysical research. Drawing on a transition theory typology, the majority of the literature can be characterized as reflexive , with less than 20% of research exploring primarily operational, tactical, or strategic themes. But there are many sources where the research contains overlapping categories. The research for SMR impacts is distinct from the other three alternative power sources; this literature is largely strategic. Priorities for further analysis in the short-term include applying lessons from the international literature to the Canadian context and developing a better understanding of the specific impacts of alternative energy sources on Indigenous communities. In the longer term, there is a need for more research in the field, with a particular emphasis on understanding the operational and strategic qualities of low carbon power production.
This chapter situates the Alberta Climate Dialogue (ABCD) deliberations within the political and economic context of the province of Alberta. We argue that overall the Alberta context is one that is generally resistant to public participation mechanisms. When public engagement is undertaken it is often designed to secure public acceptance of policy proposals rather than meaningful input into the design of such policies. We also note in this chapter a tension between high-profile provincial deliberations and low-profile localized deliberations that are less risky for conveners but also potentially less effective in forging policy alternatives. Despite these general tendencies, there are exceptions where political leaders and civil servants are genuinely open to more innovative approaches to public engagement. Some of the work by ABCD reflects these positive outcomes. By outlining the contextual challenges ABCD faced, it is our hope that other organizations seeking to design deliberative processes will gain a better understanding of how history and context inform the design and implementation public engagement.
Our aim in this chapter is to identify distinct discourses on energy development in the south-western region of Alberta and to identify areas of overlapping interest (common ground) that can serve as a focal point and a foothold for progress on participatory governance within this energy landscape.
Canada's geoscape possesses more potential geothermal energy than hydrocarbon energy, but numerous challenges must be overcome if this renewable resource is to be effectively harnessed. Reservoirs of geothermal energy must be located, characterized, and modeled. The nature of the interaction between rock at reservoir sites and geothermal fluids must be understood, and the potential costs of exploiting them in real-world scenarios must be understood. At the same, new engine technologies must be developed to enable generation of power from geothermal heat sources with non-ideal temperatures.
Q methodology traditionally involves the sorting of stimuli such as textual phrases or images that are then analyzed with statistical software. Coupled with these quantitative techniques, Q methodology often involves in-depth interviews and interpretative methods. In spite of these mixed-methods strengths, scholars are turning to internet-based platforms for administering Q studies, allowing for a greater range of access to a larger pool of potential participants. In this paper, we examine issues related to participant engagement and the potential impact of low quality sorts on data reliability. These issues are particularly germane for studies utilizing online platforms for administering Q methodology studies, where the distance between researcher and participants is increased. Our analysis involves the generation of random q sorts as a proxy for low quality data, and explores the influence of introduced low quality data on factor loadings and interpretation. In our exploratory study, we find that the introduction of even a small number of low quality sorts can seriously influence factor loadings, and in particular, these random sorts alter the composition of q sorts that load on less dominant "minority" factors, and ultimately, on the interpretation of factors. Based on these findings, we propose an approach that allows Q method researchers to explore further the quality of their data to detect "low quality" sorts, and offer suggestions for improving participant engagement in online studies.
Solar power (i.e., solar photovoltaic) accounts for about 0.3% of total electricity production in Canada. To enhance this contribution to energy supply from solar power, financial incentives and technological breakthroughs alone may not guarantee change. Drawing on a national survey of 2065 Canadian residents, we identify the determinants of technology adoption intention with the exemplary case of rooftop solar. Using a combination of latent and observed variables within a non-linear structural equation model, our analysis quantifies how a set of individual and community level factors affect adoption intention. Analysis reveals that the visibility of solar technology has a particularly strong effect on intention, lending support to social learning and social network theories of diffusion of innovation. Our findings also show that the perceived knowledge of energy systems and being publicly engaged in energy issues significantly increases adoption intention. These conclusions encourage policy options that enhance public engagement and the visibility of solar technology within neighborhoods and communities.
In 2013, the state-owned electrical energy utility in New Brunswick, Canada, announced that a problem with concrete expansion was shortening by 40 years the expected life of the 660 MW Mactaquac Generating Station on the Saint John River. Its construction late in the 1960s, and the subsequent inundation of 10,000 hectares (ha) was part of a regional modernisation programme. Locals lost homes, agricultural land, communities and landmarks and a new mill changed livelihoods and attracted new people. In the intervening decades, the reservoir has become locally cherished for waterfront living and pleasure boat recreation. Since 2012, independent social science research about the fate of the dam and headpond has been undertaken in parallel with stakeholder engagement and public relations by the electricity utility. The final decision was delivered late 2016. The chosen option was to extend the dam’s life through repairs in situ, not one of the options formally under consideration. This paper presents provincial-scale discourses on the Mactaquac decision, using a 2014 energy survey of 500 New Brunswick residents which included questions about the Mactaquac decision. Analysis reveals how provincial preferences aligned with local qualitative research (summarised in an Appendix), revealing preferences for ongoing headpond amenity and the avoidance of further trauma associated with major landscape change. Preferences of First Nations to remove the dam may yet prove disruptive to the announced option. The discussion summarises aspects of the case study relevant to other instances of dam removal and landscape transition, as well as exploring options for further theoretical development, testing or application. These opportunities include: why males and females demonstrated different scales of concern around Mactaquac; the implications of different framings of hydroelectricity development (e.g. sacrificial landscape or local energy) on removal debates; and, how public decision-making can usefully engage with rather than dismiss uncertainty and path dependency.
Energy is the lifeblood of any society. It drives a society's material culture and the reproduction of that culture. It is essential for the production of food, shelter, clothing, and for transportation, trade and communication. This paper makes the case for a rural sociology of energy. Relative to the impact that energy issues have for rural places and people, energy, as a subject area, has been understudied by rural sociologists and is infrequently represented in the journals devoted to rural sociology and rural studies. Energy production and distribution activities such as coal mining, uranium mining, hydroelectric dams, wind farms, nuclear, biomass and ethanol production facilities, transmission lines, pipelines, shale gas development, and other energy related activities clearly have major implications for rural life. These activities affect power relations in local areas, landscape and amenity values, labor markets, economic development, income, poverty, health, mobility, and many other thematic areas that are common in rural sociology and rural studies. This paper presents an analysis of energy related content to the major journals where rural sociologists publish; including, Journal of Rural Social Science (formerly Journal of Southern Rural Sociology), Rural Sociology, Sociologia Ruralis, Journal of Rural Studies, the Journal of Rural and Community Development and Society and Natural Resources. Some speculation is offered on historical reasons for the lack of attention to energy issues. The manuscript ends with an invitation to turn our collective sociological imaginations toward an explicit rural sociology of energy across several themes and through several specific research questions. Ultimately, society and possibly our species will succeed or fail based on how we deal with three basic human needs, food, water and energy. The overall success or measure of society should be of significant concern to rural sociologists. After all, our task is to study human society—its organization, its functioning, its transformation of material and space. We study the application of human labor to various purposes, issues of equality and inequality, social stratification, power and governance, ownership of and access to critical natural, social, and economic resources. To date, the dominant tradition in rural sociology has involved a detailed examination of social dimensions of our food system, particularly food production. This has been an appropriate line of enquiry as food is a critical resource to the reproduction and flourishing of human society and one that occurs primarily in rural space. A rural sociology of water, I believe, could be another fruitful line of enquiry, but that is a topic for another day. To date, the attention rural sociologists * I would like to thank Jeffrey Jacquet, Troy Hall and Bill Heffernan for reviewing an early draft of this work. I would also like to thank John Parkins, Rich Stedman, Louise Comeau, Kate Sherren and others on our Energy Transitions research team for creating a lively intellectual environment for discussing energy and social science. Thanks also to the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for funding our investigations into energy issues in Canada.
Landscape values indicate how humans perceive and evaluate the landscape. In our study areas, two hydroelectric proposals have the potential to alter the landscape dramatically, particularly the river (reservoir) and riparian land. An understanding of the spatial patterns of landscape values, especially the social and cultural values which are intangible and underestimated in energy planning processes, can help decision makers to anticipate public concerns and adjust or abandon project proposals accordingly. Intangible landscape values can be revealed in part by leveraging social media. Such data sources have two benefits in relation to the challenges of previous, manual approaches: they give us access to people (e.g. youth) who are often absent in conventional participation methods, and provide large datasets at low cost. We collected photos and captions that were geo-tagged to the study areas on the social media site Instagram, and built a filtering model to increase validity of data for the calculation of point density (specifically, kernel density estimation). The density maps reveal that: (1) landscape values vary over space; (2) aesthetic value was most widespread (not surprising given typical uses of the Instagram platform); (3) town areas, especially the old ones, and popular viewpoints were most likely to be attractors for multiple values. People tend to accept and appreciate familiar landscapes, thus proponents should make particular allowances for locations of key values and multiplex values.
First 50 days free here: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1Vak0iZ5st7O9 Social impact assessment (SIA) is well-established but uses conventional approaches that have become less effective in recent decades, particularly in relation to declining survey response rates and a lack of youth engagement. Images from digital archives and social media sources are poised to advance the research and practice of SIA by transcending text-based methods with insights into changing landscapes, and human engagement with them. This viewpoint describes progress, challenges and cautions towards the development of such tools (defined as culturomics), using hydroelectricity cases to illustrate potential approaches. These tools build on foundational work in a range of disciplines, including the humanities and computer science. We describe necessary advances in machine learning, image digitization, and data aggregation and visualization techniques, as well as ways to ensure that such tools are carefully tested, applied and interpreted. Challenges include the automation, acquisition and management of datasets, and using these tools appropriately and equitably. Critically, culturomics of any 2 kind must not be used as a replacement for engagement with people, but as complementary to inclusive stakeholder engagement.
Culturomics, as commonly described, is limited to text-based ‘big data’, even for applications such as conservation where images are much closer to the phenomena under study. Conservation issues are primarily cultural problems. Conservation culturomics should be expanded to include images, as has been developing in the context of cultural ecosystem services mapping. Also, however, conservation culturomics should engage with parallel fields in the humanities and social sciences that have experience using images to understand culture. Such an interdisciplinary approach is especially important given the trajectory towards automation enabled by big data algorithms. A wider range of fields will help ensure that the implementation of conservation culturomics is nuanced and ethical. Culturomics of any kind must not be used as a replacement for engagement with people, but as complementary to stakeholder engagement.
Local populations, when facing 'public good' landscape change, often demonstrate a belief that they inhabit a climax cultural landscape. In successional terms, a climax landscape is one that has reached a stable state after various stages of socio-cultural progress, from ‘pioneers’ on up, as humans met their needs through landscape modifications. Climax or 'summit' thinking is making it difficult to adapt landscapes to new needs that will benefit future generations: e.g. renewable energy, climate adaptation, urban densification. Understanding and overcoming such conceptualizations could smooth the way for sustainability transitions. Numerous scholars have developed concepts to explain mired public processes, in the years since such processes became commonplace. While many individuals believe they will not be able to adapt to change in their landscapes, the opposite has been repeatedly demonstrated. Indeed not only do our expectations and norms slowly change as generations replace one another, but landscape expectations and preferences can evolve even within the generation that has witnessed quick and dramatic change (e.g. hydroelectricity development). Ecologists debunked the idea of ecological equilibrium, developing the concept of secondary succession: the resetting of ecosystem conditions following a disturbance. An opening in the canopy or lava flow creates a space of opportunity that can be filled by a range of possible futures. What becomes established depends on the prevailing conditions, neighbours, and needs. It is likely undesirable to re-engineer what we think of as an ideal based on past experience. This chapter develops a non-equilibrium model for change in cultural landscapes, mapping to related theories and ideas in other fields, and presents ideas on how the theory can be applied to avoid casting landscape futures around old needs and old solutions while maintaining place and cultural heritage.
A core theme in these two communities, and the eight others that were part of this study, has to do with local leadership and community capacity-building.
As a pragmatist, I see some merit in CCS. As a critic, I think CCS is stuck in an older way of thinking about how we power the grid with large and centralized systems that are increasingly irrelevant. Within decades we will have even more opportunities to move beyond these Jurassic coal plants to turn on our lights and power our economies with more sustainable energy systems.
What factors shape the democratic potential of public consultation in environmental policymaking? Here, the motivations, purposes, designs, and outcomes of recent public engagement on land use planning, climate change policy, and water resource management in Alberta, Canada are reviewed in order to show how the power dynamics of the political and economic context shape the democratic potential of public and stakeholder consultations, especially where dominant resource interests are at stake. At the same time, political leadership, interactions between civil society actors and key design elements are shown to be important to democratization.
Cumulative effects assessment is a process of scientific analysis, social choice, and public policy development, yet the linkages among these domains are often less than transparent. Limits to scientific and technical assessment, issues of power and control of information, and episodic forms of civic engagement represent serious challenges to meaningful understanding of cumulative effects assessment and land-use planning. In articulating these challenges, I draw on case studies from Ontario's Lands for Life and Alberta's Land-use Framework to illustrate current limitations to cumulative effects assessment on public lands in Canada. As a partial remedy for these limitations, insights into a pragmatic approach to impact assessment, in contrast to decisionistic and technocratic approaches, offer a way forward through a more robust integration of scientific information, civic engagement, and public policy development. I also identify a need for longer-standing institutions that are dedicated to regional planning and cumulative effects assessment in Canada.
This questionnaire was used to gauge energy literacy and energy citizenship in Canada with 3,000 survey participants in the Fall of 2014. Questionnaire topics include knowledge of the energy system, preferences for energy sources, views on current and future energy use, engagement on energy issues, values related to energy development, trust in sources of information, and key demographic variables. Study results are located at the the project website, energytransitions.ca
Mactaquac, New Brunswick, is the site of the Canadian Maritimes' largest hydroelectric dam, producing 668 MW of renewable energy. Built in the mid-1960s at great economic, environmental and social cost, the cement used to build the dam contained a faulty aggregate which is compromising the stability of the structure. By 2016, a decision must be made whether the dam will be rebuilt, removed, or decommissioned (left in place without producing power). We took groups of locals on houseboat tours in August 2013 to learn how they felt about the place, and the options available. The manmade amenity of the Mactaquac headpond evoked a sense of shared tragedy for long-time residents but – across all groups – a deep sense of place, identity and of the area's aesthetic and recreational value, as well as energy, that speak for rebuilding the dam. The strength of emotion suggests a careful consultation process is needed to ensure an acceptable outcome. METHODS We took three groups of participants on a three-hour houseboat tour of the Mactaquac headpond, in late August, 2013 (n=25): 1. Individuals who lived in the area before the dam (before 1967); 2. Individuals who grew up on the headpond and never saw the prior landscape; and 3. Individuals who moved into the area more recently as amenity migrants. The novel water perspective helped us to 'break the frame' of everyday experience, to elicit local stories, observations and preferences using landscape elicitation and focus group discussions. CONCLUSIONS Our novel in situ focus group with locals of the Mactaquac headpond area provides insights relevant to the decision the public utility must make in 2016 about the fate of the dam and its headpond. While participants whose families have been in the area since before the dam was built shared a sense of tragedy about its impacts at the time, most study participants: 1. Value the headpond landscape for its beauty, wildlife and recreational opportunities; 2. Want to see the area develop economic opportunities but not development that changes the headpond landscape; and, 3. Prefer to maintain and refurbish the energy source they have in the dam rather than invest in new energy sources with the commensurate change and uncertainty. The protest against the dam's removal today mirrors that against the dam in 1966. The Province may not be able to afford the option most acceptable to locals. The public utility has complex justice issues to negotiate, as well as acceptability; careful public consultation is needed over this potentially drastic landscape and energy system change. WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY at vimeo.com/87082790
The transformation of energy landscapes toward more sustainable energy futures is often fraught with challenges, not the least of which is public opposition to the altering of treasured spaces and places. Drawing on Charles Taylor’s social imaginaries, Zeubravel’s socialization theory and Nassauer’s notions of culture and landscape, this paper identifies the discursive and visual structures that anchor the socio-ecological world to existing modes of energy production and limit the potential for energy landscape transformation. Within this analysis, culture is understood to be inextricably linked to landscapes and energy development – from wind mills and solar arrays to oil sands and hydroelectric facilities – having a profound effect upon landscape preferences. The landscapes humans create as they meet their needs and desires are not always beautiful or healthy, but they comprise heritage that contributes significantly to an individual’s sense of place or identity. Therefore any meaningful transformation of these landscapes toward sustainable futures will require careful and incisive analysis of these social and cultural anchoring points. These points are examined in this study through Q method analysis of 48 statements on energy production in Canada. Research involves three diverse case study areas (Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick) aimed at gaining insights into the discursive underpinnings of energy production. Results offer nuanced and regionally specific understanding of citizens' deeply rooted and often conflicting values surrounding landscape change, aesthetics, governance, ownership, renewable energy alternatives, and identity with the energy sector.
Mactaquac, New Brunswick, is the site of the Canadian Maritime provinces' largest hydroelectric dam, producing 668 MW of renewable energy, built in the late-1960s at great economic, environmental and social cost. The cement used to build the dam, however, contained a faulty aggregate which is compromising the stability of the structure. The dam will be either rebuilt, removed, or decommissioned (keeping the headpond without producing power). This decision has to be made by 2016, and the provincial power utility that owns it, NB Power, has initiated a Comparative Environmental Review process to assess the options. Of the three options, NB Power has provided the least information around the option of removing the dam. Misinformation is rife, and the lack of public understanding about this option and its implications is creating a polarized debate. Specifically, there is a lack of awareness of what typically results from dam removal processes and what kind of landscape might result. Given the generational change that has occurred since the dam was constructed, there is a general lack of understanding of what the pre-dam landscape looked like. Photographs are easily available across the internet, but are not easily related to the modern landscape. Pre-dam maps and aerial photography are not easily available to citizens. The nature of maps is that they are rarely questioned, despite the amount of information filtering and selection that is involved in their creation. A critical cartography approach to this problem is to reveal what is otherwise invisible-in this case the pre-dam landscape-and thus introduce new narratives into the discussion. The cartographic product called a storymap is a recently developed approach to enriching web-based maps with imagery and audio, and customizing how they are viewed through designing a tour or geographic narrative. We used a storymap to reveal to users the landscape that was lost and gained, and provide an opportunity for discovery and conversation between various generations of stakeholders of this hydroelectric dam and its locally cherished headpond. The storymap medium may be an effective outreach tool for other contentious decision-making settings.
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.
Landscape impacts are commonly cited as barriers to new energy infrastructure, but rarely are perceptions of such impacts monitored over time. Built in the mid-1960s, the Mactaquac hydroelectric generating station in New Brunswick, Canada, is degrading, and its future is under review. We took locals on houseboats to learn how they felt about the dam, the landscape it altered, and the future of the facility. Using the concept of cultural imaginaries we observe important themes about how landscape changes are experienced, perceived and reinterpreted by local residents over time. Despite the initial trauma of construction, most residents expressed a deep sense of place, identity and appreciation of the headpond’s aesthetic and recreational value, as well as its renewable energy. Our methods revealed social pressures at play: collective discussions endorsed keeping the headpond intact, whether or not energy continues to be produced, while individuals alone were more likely to appreciate the former river, with some participants privately open to its restoration. The establishment within a generation of connection to this site of energy production suggests the value of taking a long view to understanding landscape transitions, which cuts both ways, providing possible consolation to proponents of renewable and conventional energy alike.
In the fall of 2014 our research team conducted a national survey on energy literacy and energy citizenship in Canada (Comeau et al. 2015). That survey included questions covering: • energy knowledge (self-assessed and tested), engagement and activity; • exposure, support and opposition to various energy sources; and, • personal values, beliefs, and trust in public processes related to energy. In addition to the national survey a sample of 500 New Brunswick (NB) adults completed the above survey, allowing for more detailed analysis of results from this region, as well as additional questions seeking opinions on several NB-specific energy issues, such as the proposed sale of NB Power to Hydro Quebec in 2009/2010, and the fate of the Mactaquac Dam. In partnership with a polling firm, Corporate Research Associates (CRA), respondents were randomly selected from a general population panel of 450,000 Canadians. Quota requirements were based on Statistics Canada estimates for age and gender. We also tracked mother tongue, income, education, and urban/rural distribution for alignment with Statistics Canada provincial estimates. Analysis reported here includes descriptive statistics, cross-tabulations, multinomial logistic regression and qualitative coding, contextualized with social media monitoring. Because of recent controversies in the region, hydroelectricity, nuclear, and shale gas are given particular attention. Respondents were demographically representative of New Brunswick residents by research design, which includes age, language, and gender. The average respondent was at the high end of 45-54, had English as the first language (77%), and was male (53%). This archetype was also modestly well-off, politically moderate, tending towards the liberal (3.6 on a scale from 1=liberal to 7=conservative), a college or university graduate (56%), and lived either in a city or its immediate suburb (59%). Only a small share were employed themselves in the energy sector (8%), or had family members thus employed (11%). Personal values tended toward ecological concerns (ecocentrism), with a strong sense that nature is fragile and that humans are heavily reliant on it. Concerns were expressed regarding the impact of changing natural conditions on humans, particularly in terms of climate change. Addressing energy consumption and pollution were seen as moral duties, but respondents also stressed the need to maintain a strong energy economy and low energy prices as we transition to new energy sources and phase out those that contribute to carbon pollution. Scores on energy knowledge-testing questions were low, but respondents also gave themselves low marks in their self-assessments of energy knowledge. Gender was significant, as women believed they knew less about energy, had lower levels of confidence and were less likely to answer factual questions correctly. There were also low levels of knowledge regarding specific energy conservation/transportation options and low willingness to undertake them. In response to energy efficiency challenges, the most likely change was to respond to time-of-day costing by changing when to undertake energy-intensive activities. Willingness to undertake conservation activities was in some cases correlated with knowledge. Respondents preferred to engage in individual rather than public actions around energy, and saw personal characteristics as the most significant barriers to the latter, notably fear of public speaking (particularly for women). Respondents were aware of opportunities to participate in energy discussions, but few did. Just under half said they did not have strong views on energy issues. Many felt their input would make no difference. In general, respondents trusted outsiders such as friends/family and consumer and environmental groups more than industry insiders, which is consistent with their assessments of provincial decision-makers as biased toward industry. Values, beliefs, perceived knowledge and education influenced support for particular energy sources, particularly renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources were the most supported (hydroelectricity, solar, wind) and respondents generally considered themselves knowledgeable about these. For other sources, respondents were more uncertain, with knowledge somewhat inversely related to support: geothermal was poorly understood but supported (though less than nationally), and nuclear is not supported but well understood. Support for a technology was generally driven by assessments of direct benefits to the province, economy and/or consumers, which may disadvantage renewable sources whose novelty and rarity have not yet demonstrated such regional benefits. Reasons for support differed sometimes by technology: hydroelectricity was supported most for its perception of low risk to human health and safety. Opposition tended to be environmentally driven, such as with shale gas extraction, or based on assessments of risk, such as in the case of nuclear. Shale gas support in New Brunswick was among the highest nationally (36%; tied with Alberta), but it is a polarizing issue that also has high levels of opposition. The most common energy infrastructure to which respondents reported exposure (seeing, hearing or smelling) was transmission towers (43%) with wind turbines, and oil refineries next most common, similar to the number of those reporting they see nothing (30%). Hydroelectric dams (18%) and nuclear plants were less commonly reported (11%). Exposure to wind, solar, hydroelectricity and nuclear was positively associated with support for further development of each technology. More conventional energy sources could not be tested for these associations. When given the chance to discuss what they saw as the most significant energy issues in the province, respondents volunteered energy costs (despite current media suggesting that it was underpriced), and shale gas. Of the 31 (of 240 listing the issue) willing to give an explicit opinion on shale gas, positions were split: 14 supported shale gas for the jobs; 17 opposed it for the environmental and health risk. Only eight mentioned the Mactaquac Dam as the most significant issue. In general, respondents knew little about the Mactaquac decision but two-thirds were prepared to support its rebuilding, largely on the basis of benefits to the province/economy/consumers. A quarter did not know what should be done. Only six percent preferred to see the dam removed, and this tended to be motivated by environmental impacts, risks and monetary costs. Landscape impacts were most prominent for those 8% who preferred to see the dam retained but without power generation. Those least knowledgeable tended to either give no preference, or support rebuilding on the basis of risk or environmental concerns. Exposure to hydroelectricity reduced uncertainty about preferences. A multinomial linear regression revealed gender-based differences around those espousing each option, compared to those who did not know what should be done with the dam. For males, having an opinion was related more to conservatism and knowledge about or position on hydroelectricity, whereas for females it was more likely to be associated with knowledge of the specific Mactaquac issue. Overall, however, the decision is a clear tug-of-war between economic benefits and environment impacts, with rebuilding without power a compromise option associated with landscape aesthetics and recreation values.