02.07.conference.christos zografos

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  • 1. Whose back-yard? Wind energy and the politics of landscape value in southern Catalonia Christos Zografos, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow ICTA, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain [email_address] International Conference on Environmental Conflicts and Justice ICTA, UAB, Casa del Mar, Barcelona, Spain Friday 2 July 2010
  • 2. Presentation outline
    • Study rationale and motivation
    • The case study
    • The three elements of explanation
    • Conclusions
  • 3. Wind energy
    • Although significant potential to overcome polluting fossil fuel dependence, wind farm installation faces obstacles: conflictive
    • Policy perspective: understanding opposition to siting can help resolve or avoid conflicts in future
  • 4. Landscape value is important
    • “ the visual evaluation of the impact of wind power on the values of the landscape is by far the most dominant factor in explaining why some are opposed to wind power implementation and why others support it” (Wolsink, 2007)
  • 5. Explaining conflict: NIMBY
    • Some people block the global benefits of wind energy on grounds of subjective aesthetic impacts on local landscape (“selfish parochialism”)
    • Landscape concerns reveal NIMBYism, which explains existence of wind energy conflicts
  • 6. Literature: the NIMBY myth
    • “ Actually, the combination of general positive attitudes and oppositional behaviour based on selfish motives related to the NIMBY idea are rare” (Wolsink, 2007)
      • “ only ¼ of population clearly looked at the costs and benefits of wind turbines in terms of individual utility” (Wolsink, 2000: 53)
    • NIMBY term (Kempton et al., 2005): obscures , not explains actual causes of opposition
    • Use of NIMBY: attempt to pre-qualify wind energy opponents (McAvoy, 1998)
  • 7. Landscape change and conflict: political ecology
    • PE approach: surprisingly missing from literature
      • focus: environmental and landscape change <-> conflict
    • Landscape change generates particular costs and benefits , which tend to be distributed unequally (‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of environmental change)
    • This generates (environmental) conflict : ‘losers’ from landscape change reclaim and struggle for a re-distribution of costs and benefits (EDC)
  • 8. Case study
    • Aim: provide alternative (to obsolete NIMBY model) explanation of wind energy conflicts based upon a PE approach
    • Via a case study of one such conflict in southern Catalonia (May 2006 – September 2007)
  • 9. Terra Alta: the deep south…
    • Size: approx. 2% of Catalonia (743 km 2 )
    • Population: approx. 0.2% of Catalonia (12,700 people)
      • low population density: 17.12 inhabitants per km 2 (Catalonia average: 218.73)
    • Of economically most deprived comarcas (counties) in Catalonia
    • Highest proportion of active population in agriculture (mostly olives, wine, almonds and hazelnuts) in Catalonia
    Comarca (1/41 in Catalonia)
  • 10. The Terra Alta wind farms
    • 11 wind farms (360MW) of approx 180 wind turbines (2005):
      • Turbines to cross right through the comarca on a – more or less – continuous line of approx 40km
    • Two new lines of HTEW of approx 60km (transport energy produced from wind farms)
    Tortosa CE Garigues
  • 11. Conflict
    • Admin, energy utilities and environmentalists (outside locality): wind energy = positive wind farms’ impacts (local economic benefits, global environmental benefits of renewable energy)
    • Local opposition group(s), local conservationists: wind energy= degrading impact of turbines on value of local landscape
  • 12. Explaining conflict
    • Study identified three elements missed by NIMBY explanation
    • These elements are crucial for explaining/ understanding the causes of conflict
  • 13. ELEMENT 1: ECOLOGICAL DISTRIBUTION CONFLICTS
    • The ‘macro-concentration’ issue
  • 14. The power house
    • Massive concentration of wind farms in 2% of Catalan territory (affecting 0.2% of population)
    • Reflects a broader pattern of development
      • Broader area (S Catalonia): Catalonia’s power house
      • ‘ Centre’ (Barcelona, Tarragona tourist resorts & industry): benefits in terms of economic development + K accumulation from more available energy generated by the ‘power house’
  • 15. Macro-concentration
    • Over the last half century, the installation of a series of adverse energy (electricity) generating facilities have turned the broader area into “ Catalonia’s dump ”
  • 16. Nuclear energy
    • Asc ó (2,000MW)
      • 10km off admin limits of TA
      • 2 reactors (’82; ‘88: mass protest)
      • Incident Apr. 2008: bad reporting to national nuclear monitoring agency: sacking of executives
    • Vandellòs (1,000MW)
      • 30km from TA admin limits
      • 2 reactors (built: 1972, 1987)
      • 1989: after a fire threatens the facility, a decision is taken to shut down the older reactor
    Source: www.grec.net
  • 17. In brief…
    • Two out of the seven nuclear power plants that exist in the whole of Spain are located within a close range from Terra Alta
    Source: Department of Nuclear Engineering, Polytechnic University of Madrid
  • 18. Hydroelectric dam of Flix (1950)
    • >20km from TA – site where chemicals co. (early 1900s) used to be
    • DDT (stopped in 1945)
      • residues dumped in river Ebre + remain trapped in dam’s reservoir
    • Studies: when water volume increases (e.g. with rain), toxic residues move up and contaminate last section of the river (and further downriver)
  • 19. Hydroelectric dam of Riba-Roja d’Ebre (1967)
    • 15km from TA admin limits
    • Nearby villages of Mequinenza and Fay ó n were artificially inundated and new villages were built for inhabitants
    • Majority (Mequinenza: half; Fay ó n: over 2/3) immigrated (Barcelona and Zaragoza)
  • 20. Electricity generation in Catalonia (2005) (Saladie, 2006) Terra Alta
  • 21. Electricity demand by municipality in Catalonia (2003) Source: Pla de l’Energia Catalunya 2005-2015 Massive tourism resorts (Tarragona beaches) Barcelona Barcelona
  • 22. What macro-concentration?
    • Central administration tends to turn a blind eye on this situation…
    • “ On his visit … the Counsellor of the Department of Industry of the Catalan Government … denied claims of a massive concentration of wind farms in the area, although admitting that over 50% of new projects authorised in Catalonia are concentrated in Terra Alta, Ribera d'Ebre and Baix Ebre” (La Vanguardia, 21 February 2006 )
  • 23. Centre-periphery
    • “ We are talking to those politicians who ignore that there is a Catalonia to the south of Port Aventura!”
    • Plataforma per la Terra Alta
    “ The North also exists!” Source: Sergi Saladie, Geographer, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona
  • 24. ELEMENT 2: LIFE PROJECTS
    • Valueless vs. valuable landscape
  • 25. ‘ Internal’ decline
    • Similarly to an ever increasing number of areas of rural Europe, the last four decades have been marked by trends that have weakened the area’s potential to provide locally-based development
      • Depopulation
      • ‘ Death’ of agriculture
    Percentage of TA workforce employed in agriculture 1970 1986 2001 66% 50% 33.2% Source: IDESCAT Population trends 1920 23,365 (population peak) 2001 12,196 growth: - 6.4 (Catalonia: +ve) 2006 > ¼ of population: over 65 y.o.
  • 26. The ‘valueless’ landscape
    • Terra Alta:
      • Second last position in GDP/ capita in Catalonia (2002)
      • Among three less competitive comarcas in Catalonia (2007)
    • Official reports construct (an image of) Terra Alta as a site in decline+ in urgent need of economic development
      • For its survival (to avoid total depopulation)
    • Idea of TA = a ‘ valueless ’ (ageing and depopulated) agricultural landscape used by wind farms promoters
      • 260 new jobs created
      • A GDP increase of 7%
  • 27. Landscape is not important
    • “ Concerns over the landscape are value judgements and will not stand as an obstacle to the implementation of wind energy” (GC Councillor of Industry Department)
    • “ negative effects of wind energy are ‘ insignificant ’ compared to impacts of energy model based on fossil fuels and nuclear energy” (Ecologistas en Acción)
    • “ opposition to wind farms is due to ‘purely aesthetic ’ criteria… they would be in favour of a CC plant instead because CO 2 is not visible” (Chairman of wind energy company Eoliccat)
  • 28. The valuable landscape
    • Fieldwork
    • Local stakeholders create and engage into activities that are embedded in and communicate the idea that the Terra Alta landscape is valuable
  • 29. Life projects (Blaser & Feit, 2004)
    • Indigenous resistance activities that cannot be explained as solely reaction to state and market-promoted development but as efforts to sustain a purposeful and meaningful life
    • Non-hegemonic projects, that try to:
      • achieve a degree of control over life and its meaning
      • address power imbalances towards ‘the global’
    • … by elevating local attributes as valuable assets capable of providing livelihood opportunities
  • 30. Numerous life projects in Terra Alta
    • ‘ Art in the open’
      • series of sculptures and ‘visual poems’ installed in TA paths aiming at exploring artistic potential of landscape
    • Picasso Centre
      • facsimiles of Picasso’s paintings (spent two summers in TA) that aims at highlighting “links between this land and the great artist”
  • 31. The threat
    • Promotion and installation of wind farms undermines:
      • Local landscape valuations
      • Local efforts to achieve a degree of control over life and its meaning
    • “ But now, we are distressed by a threat … They are projecting a wind farm that endangers the landscapes that Picasso loved and painted: the turbines will tear into pieces our beautiful, still virgin, landscape heritage … These wind-mills will stab our model of development based upon our natural and cultural heritage. These turbines will smash up everything ” (Secretary, The Picasso Centre)
  • 32. Landscape: rich and valuable
    • Life projects: alternative, sub-altern (?) narratives of the landscape that exalt this as a valuable resource
    • Terra Alta: rural paradise or energy hell?
  • 33. EXPLANATION 3: PROCEDURAL ISSUES
    • Decision-making scales and criteria
  • 34. Exclusions
    • Previous two explanations:
      • Importance of regional distributions of costs/ benefits from development of wind energy in Catalonia
      • Importance of local valuations of landscape
    • Comprise potential decision-making criteria
      • Criteria to use when assessing wind farm applications
    • However, these criteria are conspicuously absent from decision-making process
  • 35. Regional scale: siting decisions
    • Map of Catalonia’s wind resources: wind measurement on basis of average annual wind power potential
    • Bottom-line criterion for decision to build wind farms: availability of wind resources (financial viability of project)
      • “ The basic requirements for giving a licence to a wind farm is that it is outside protected areas, the location of the electricity evacuation line and that the zone is included in the Map of Wind Resources of the GC” (J.M. Rañé, Industry Councillor, GC, Feb.2006)
  • 36. E.g. the limited authority of LA
    • Unless illegal (e.g. to be built within N2k sites!), LA cannot object wind farm installation on any other grounds (e.g. don’t want this type of local development, regional distribution c/b)
    • “… what we do is to just process applications.. the only [other] thing we can do is to protest to the Government… to moan like cry-babies” (Local Mayor)
  • 37. Conclusions: explaining the conflict
    • This conflict is hardly about wind farms!
    • ‘ Ecologising ’ (landscape value) existing/ older conflicts: ‘centre – periphery’ conflict over shifted costs of centre’s development
    • Conflict also explained as local objection to accept an official discourse of a ‘valueless’ landscape , which essentially denies importance of local life projects
    • Finally, conflict is also explained by local opposition to value exclusions from decision-making processes (procedural environmental injustice)
  • 38. Conclusions: policy
    • Avoid:
      • exclusion of locally-important decision-making criteria
      • dominance of bottom-line criteria: wind potential
    • Instead: pluralism of decision-making criteria and democratic negotiation of their importance
  • 39. For more info: publication 
    • Zografos, C. & Martínez-Alier, J. (2009) ‘The politics of landscape value: a case study of wind farm conflict from rural Catalonia’ Environment & Planning A 41 , pp. 1726-1744