Blog post by Sandra Pointel, Doctoral Researcher, Science Policy Research Unit.
For those concerned with social justice, reclaiming the NEXUS space is particularly important, to avoid the hijacking of the agenda by narrow understandings.
At the recent workshop on the Nexus, resource conflicts and social justice, Erik Millestone, Professor at SPRU, emphasised the contested nature of the NEXUS concept as the reason to join the contest and try to regain control against managerial solutions. Engagement is necessary to resist framings of integration and emphasise diverse alternatives.
Identifying how others are using the NEXUS concept and which corporate players are thinking about it and why provides interesting avenues to explore. Which actors embrace and mobilise around this new agenda? What are the underlying vested interests in creating new institutions to address it?
Caution is needed to ensure that notions of risks and security do not trickle down to give carte blanche for resource grabbing and create new conflicts at local level. Debates around energy security, for example, can in practice create massive insecurities as in the case of oil exploitation or fracking, said Nick Hildyard from Corner House.
As with energy, water or food security, universal definitions are unlikely. But putting different understandings of the NEXUS at the forefront will be a first step. Taking the NEXUS back from technical perspectives and looking at it from diverse views to consider questions of justice, distribution and bargaining power, is a key aspect said Lucy Baker, research fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit. But there is no need to reinvent the wheel with broad new concepts and alleged solutions. Natural resources conflicts have existed for a long time and taking into account historical and contextual perspectives provides a good starting point.
Diverse disciplines such as political economy, development studies, resource and sustainability politics, for example, offer many insights to build upon. There is a need to keep track on the discourses to monitor what new wheels are emerging and avoid Nexus thinking to build a new vocabulary designed to re-engineer Malthusian ideas around scarcity and “line up commodification of things that have not yet been commodified’’, said Nick Hildyard. Current concepts are “deeply resistant to historical perspectives” and provide ways of “looking at the future to colonise the present”, he warned.
Alternative thinking is starting to emerge from other actors, however, including academics and non-governmental organisations. For example, the Nexus is the main theme for this year Royal Geographical Society’s International Conference, taking place in London from 30 August to 2 September 2016.
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Image credit: with thanks to 晓燕 黄 on flickr.