Sustainable integration? Nexus thinking and the foreclosure of progressive eco-politics

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

by Joe Williams

The water-energy-food nexus has become a powerful framework for sustainable development that seeks to integrate the management of resource sectors for increased efficiency. However, its current mobilisation is fundamentally de-politicising, overlooking the contradictions and injustices of resource governance

Image 1 Irrigated fields in Jordan (Source: Manufactured Landscapes)

The water, energy and food sectors are, of course, deeply connected. Agriculture accounts for around 70% of total freshwater use globally. Huge amounts of energy is consumed in withdrawing, treating, transporting, using and disposing of water. The food production and supply chain uses about 30% of total global energy production. And the extraction of fossil fuels and production of electricity is highly water intensive.

The linkages between energy, water and food traverse every scale, from household practices to geopolitics. Yet, these complex interconnections have never been systematically quantified or managed. The notion of a WEF nexus, therefore, emerged from a…

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