Political Ecologies of Green Energy: troubling the realities of being green
Convenors: Dr Jessica Hope & Dr Ed Atkins, University of Bristol
Sponsored by DARG & ENGRG
The 2015 Paris Agreement binds world leaders to a commitment to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius this century. If this is not achieved, climate scientists predict significant disruptions to earth systems that will radically alter life as we know it (IPCC 2018). In this context, green energy offers hope. Firstly, as moving away from fossil fuels is crucial for reducing carbon emissions. Secondly, as green energy offers opportunities for a revised politics of energy and an alternative material basis for social, environmental and political life. However, the transformative potential offered by green energies is troubled by continuing patterns of exploitation, extraction, and dispossession. Hydropower mega-dams, for example, require large-scale infrastructure in the Amazon that cuts into and through indigenous territories and conservation areas (Atkins 2018). The tech-minerals required for energy storage from wind and solar power, as another example, are driving new frontiers of mining in Latin America (see Andreucci & Radhuber forthcoming)..
Political ecology provides a productive lens for investigating these shifts and tensions. It reveals the contested and multi-scalar politics of nature(s), spanning debates about how nature(s) are conceptualized and governed. Broadly, it enables us to foreground and analyse the interconnections between natures, cultures, knowledges, power, and history (see Escobar 2017) and politicize ecologies that are often rendered apolitical within popular and policy discourse (Robbins 2011: 7). In this panel, we invite papers that use a political ecology approach to interrogate and extend how we view so-called ‘green’ energies – from solar and wind to hydropower and new biofuels. At a time when the urgency of climate change is increasingly apparent (IPCC 2018), we seek to broaden our understandings of these emergent energy infrastructures to better understanding their relationship – be it positive or negative – with both social wellbeing and environmental health. With the complex realities of green energies often hidden by de-politicised CO2 metrics, we seek papers that open-up our understandings of what constitutes ‘green’ energy and the role of power and exclusion in such a definition.
We invite papers that take this as their starting point that energy is a particularly important site of study for political ecology, one that is not interchangeable with other ‘natural resources’ as energy provides the material basis of politics more broadly (Huber 2011). We invite authors to interrogate, examine and extend a political ecology of ‘green’ energy systems and technologies. Papers that look at the Global North or South are welcomed. Similarly, we are interested in hearing about a diversity of energy sources.
Papers might ask:
· How do green energy technologies restructure the spatiality / materiality of incumbent energy systems?
· To what extent do green energies differ from dynamics of extractivism and the uneven development produced by incumbent energy systems?
· How do new ‘resources’ come into being (to become commodities and extractable resources)? For example, through which knowledges, practices and discourses?
· How do green energies rework or confront colonial histories, neocolonial practices and decolonial agendas?
· How are alternative ontologies of nature and place encountered and treated by green energy initiatives?