Future Energy Landscapes in Canada: Discursive Renderings of Renewable Energy Alternatives through Q Methodology

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 12:30 PM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
John PARKINS , University of Alberta, Canada
Christy HEMPEL , University of Guelph, Canada
Tom BECKLEY , University of New Brunswick, Canada
Kate SHERREN , Dalhousie University, Canada
Rich STEDMAN , Cornell University
The transformation of energy landscapes toward more sustainable energy futures is often fraught with challenges, not the least of which is public opposition to the altering of treasured spaces and places. Drawing on Charles Taylor’s social imaginaries, Zeubravel’s  socialization theory and Nassauer’s notions of culture and landscape, this paper identifies the discursive and visual structures that anchor the socio-ecological world to existing modes of energy production and limit the potential for energy landscape transformation. Within this analysis, culture is understood to be inextricably linked to landscapes and energy development – from wind mills and solar arrays to oil sands and hydroelectric facilities – having a profound effect upon landscape preferences. The landscapes humans create as they meet their needs and desires are not always beautiful or healthy, but they comprise heritage that contributes significantly to an individual’s sense of place or identity. Therefore any meaningful transformation of these landscapes toward sustainable futures will require careful and incisive analysis of these social and cultural anchoring points. These points are examined in this study through Q method analysis of 48 statements on energy production in Canada. Research involves three diverse case study areas (Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick) aimed at gaining insights into the discursive underpinnings of energy production. Results offer nuanced and regionally specific understanding of citizens' deeply rooted and often conflicting values surrounding landscape change, aesthetics, governance, ownership, renewable energy alternatives, and identity with the energy sector.