In 2016, Rose Cairns (SPRU) and Anna Krzywoszynska (University of Sheffield) published a research paper on ‘Anatomy of a buzzword: The emergence of ‘the water-energy-food nexus’ in UK natural resource debates’, in the journal Environmental Science & Policy.
The nexus buzzword
In the paper, the authors argue that the water-energy-food nexus should remain a ‘matter of concern’ rather than be turned into a ‘matter of fact’:
”The existence of a water-energy-food ‘nexus’ has been gaining significant attention in international natural resource policy debates in recent years. We argue the term ‘nexus’ can be currently seen as a buzzword: a term whose power derives from a combination of ambiguous meaning and strong normative resonance….
”We suggest that in the UK the mobilisation of the nexus terminology can best be understood as symptomatic of broader global science-policy trends, including an increasing emphasis on integration as an ideal; an emphasis on technical solutions to environmental problems; achievement of efficiency gains and ‘win-wins’; and a preference for technocratic forms of environmental managerialism…
”We argue that while current efforts to institutionalise the language of the nexus as a conceptual framework for research in the UK may provide a welcome opportunity for new forms of transdisciplinary, they may risk turning nexus into a ‘matter of fact’ where it should remain a ‘matter of concern’. In this vein, we indicate the importance of critique to the development of nexus research.”
the Role of social science
The authors outline what they see as the role of social science in the nexus:
”For us, this indicates a key role for social sciences as creators of ‘nexus forums’ where the modes of understanding and acting on nexus challenges may be debated, and where power differences between the participants may be recognised and addressed, ensuring social robustness of nexus processes and products. The importance of critique to the future of nexus debates presents a significant opportunity for social science scholars which deserves to be taken seriously, and we hope this paper will contribute to this process.”
To read the full paper, go to the journal website.
Rose Cairns and Anna Krzywoszynska. “Anatomy of a buzzword: The emergence of ‘the water-energy-food nexus’ in UK natural resource debates”, Environmental Science & Policy, Volume 64, October 2016, Pages 164–170. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2016.07.007