In July 2014, we commissioned series of thinkpieces to help scope and define nexus approaches and stimulate debate across the linked domains of food, energy, water and the environment.
We are very pleased to publish three of the thinkpieces from the July call today, plus an additional thinkpiece from Nexus Network partners, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.
Governance of the nexus: from buzz words to a strategic action perspective
Summary: In this think piece, we develop the foundations for a strategic action perspective on the governance of the nexus. Our enquiry into the governance dimension of the nexus incorporates three propositions.
- First, it acknowledges that nexus challenges cannot be separated from the perceptions, interests, and practices of actors associated with a nexus.
- Second, our approach builds on a relational understanding of nexus governance as arising from relationships between actors (actor networks) and ideas and interests (issue networks) across multiple domains.
- Third, our approach emphasizes the need for addressing nexus challenges by working with and through existing governance arrangements.
The think piece is structured in two sections. In the first section we develop the conceptual foundations for a strategic action perspective on nexus governance. In the second section we illustrate the potential of this approach by presenting the results of an empirical study of a water-food-energy-environment nexus in Ethiopia. We conclude with some reflections and possible ways forward for a research agenda on the nexus.
Image credit: Matt Saunders on Flickr.
Nexus thinking: can it slow the Great Acceleration?
Thinkpiece from Jake Reynolds and Gemma Cranston, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (note, as partners of the Nexus Network, the CISL did not receive additional funding to write this thinkpiece).
Summary: In business, success tends to be measured in terms of profitability, stock price and market share. Firms like to be at the top of market share league tables or rankings that highlight their size, growth or attractiveness to investors. There is an implicit sense that growth is necessary for survival; and that the right people and strategies can deliver it, endlessly.
The question explored here, admittedly at a high level, is whether these measures of success are the right ones in an economy that is reliant on a depreciating base of natural capital. What would success look like if one was to take this into account, and design business strategies accordingly? As well as profitability, stock price and market share, what other metrics would guide business growth?
Read the thinkpiece Reynolds_Cranston_thinkpiece_pg here (download pdf).
Politicising the nexus: Nexus technologies, urban circulation, and the coproduction of water-energy
Water and oil, it is often said, do not mix. This paper argues that they do. Indeed, water mixes with just about every form of energy that human society has hitherto harnessed. Water and energy mix to produce cities. Cities like Las Vegas. If the Colorado River were to suddenly run dry, we are sometimes told, the city of Las Vegas, and indeed much of the rest of Nevada, Arizona and Southern California would have two to three years before Lake Mead emptied and the turbines of the Hoover Dam ground to a halt. At which point, faucets and fountains would run dry, lights would go out, the music would stop, and global capital would flee in search of other urban spaces through which to circulate. The Hoover Dam stands as a monument to the binding together of water and energy.
In writing this contribution, our aims are to
- provide a comprehensive review of existing scholarship on the interrelations between water and energy
- demonstrate the urgent need for, and potential future direction of, more critical, theoretically informed, perspectives on the nexus.
The paper begins with a critical analysis of the current state of the discourse. In particular, we challenge an emerging consensus in the literature, which posits that integrated management of water and energy will necessarily lead to more sustainable management of both. Fundamentally, this is a call for purely efficiency-based solutions to tensions and trade-offs between energy and water, and one that is entirely consistent with market-based approaches to environmental governance. The concept of ‘integration’ has become a panacea for the negative aspects of the nexus, an ultimate solution that forestalls more politically informed discussions. This assumed logic ultimately implies that the serious challenges posed by the nexus framework, do not in fact require real political change. Part two of the paper develops a critical approach to understanding the water-energy nexus, and proposes some theoretical and methodological tools for doing so.
Image credit: Spreng Ben on Flickr.
Read the Williams Bouzarovski Swyngedouw Politicising the nexus Nexus Thinkpiece 2014 page numbers(download pdf).
Transdisciplinary environmental research: a review of approaches to knowledge co-production.
The challenges of ensuring food, water and energy security while mitigating environmental change require the involvement of a range of stakeholders. Issues such as climate change, land use, agri-environmental management, renewable energy and water use are complex, and addressing biophysical challenges is compounded by the need for economically and socially viable solutions. These challenges require research that cuts across traditional boundaries. Not only is there a desire to cut across academic boundaries (what can be termed interdisciplinary research); there is a need to cut across the boundaries between academia and professional practice. This paper therefore sets out to review the motivations for undertaking transdisciplinary research, and the theoretical, methodological and practical challenges inherent in such an approach. This leads to a discussion of the tensions evident in transdisciplinary collaborative activities and the challenges for participants.