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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Sustaining Scales: Scales of Sustainability Workshop

21st March 2017, 09:00 to 22nd March 2017, 17:00, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University

[T]he scale of the environmental crisis we are part of is creating a new ‘we’ and convening new publics on this planet “ (Gibson-Graham 2011:1)

Scales of sustainability workshop day 1: low carbon energy transitions

Scales of sustainability workshop day 2: agro-ecology, cultivating the anthropocene

The two days of workshop will explore diverse ‘scales of sustainability’ case studies and theoretical perspectives, which are becoming prominent in Anthropocene-oriented debates. Picking up the identification of niche innovation as vital to a number of distinct areas of sustainability and transition, the workshops (one on energy, one on agro-ecology) will interrogate scale as an organising concept for material processes, social participation and governance. Rather than assuming scale to be an innocent descriptor of space and time (with zooming in or out functionality), the workshops will explore the selective insights and blindnesses achieved by using scale in sustainability research. The intention will be to challenge the normative assumptions of planning by corporations and governments, which configure policies, technologies, infrastructures, institutions, and actors in anthropo-centric scenarios of control, rather than in terms of multi-species life systems, or even socio-ecological justice.

The workshops will compare scales from ‘system’ perspectives in collaboration with engineering and architectural colleagues, to more social science actor-oriented “start where you are” situated vantage points. The workshops will give primary focus to scale interactions between systems of energy, and agro-ecology, and will look to address ‘nexus’ sustainability research pathways.

Two workshops will consider scales of sustainability in relation to energy, and agro-ecology in turn.

Scales of Sustainability preparatory warm up: film screening Monday 20th March 8 pm ‘Tomorrow’

Day 1: low carbon energy transitions
The ‘MLP’ (Multi-level Perspective) for socio-technical transitions of Frank Geels has been enormously influential in the last ten years. It identifies scales of appropriate intervention and socio-technical innovation for achieving goals of sustainability. While adapting to political rethinking (Geels 2014 Theory Culture and Society) it is also ripe for questioning as a Euro-centric system. Looking at examples of ecological modernisation in the industrialised world and different patterns of ‘leapfrogging fossil fuels in the global south, the workshop will evaluate new directions of scaling energy sustainability.

Ben Campbell and colleagues in the Low Carbon Energy for Development Network have gathered concepts and case studies with which to explore and challenge the MLP in the field of energy transitions in the global south, where off-grid energy solutions at niche-level have highlighted governance and resource citizenship aspects of successful innovations that make the notion of ‘scaling up’ more complex than expanding niche functionality. Anna Tsing’s inspiring work on non-scalability will be brought into the conversation to challenge instrumental readings of ‘non-social elements’ in contexts of energy, food and water resource development in the global south.

Participant invitations:

David Ockwell and Rob Byrne (STEPS, SPRU Sussex), Ed Brown and Jon Cloke (Geography, Loughborough), Jamie Cross (Anthropology, Edinburgh), David Wield (Computing and Technology, Open University), Subhes Bhattacharyya (de Montfort, Engineering), Charlotte Ray (Geography, Nottingham). Raihana Ferdous (Durham Geography), Sandra Bell (Durham Anthropology), Catherine Alexander (Durham Anthropology), Simone Abram (Durham Anthropology), Nicky Gregson ((Durham Geography), Gavin Bridge (Durham Geography),

Day 2: Agro-ecology, or cultivating the anthropocene
This workshop will draw on ideas of scale circulating in discussions about living in the anthropocene and will relate them to considering the post-productionist alternatives to fossil fuel agricultural systems. Scales are pertinent to ‘nexus’ formulations of sustainability research and are particularly evident in the food security/food sovereignty agendas. Papers will compare genuinely global contexts of change and the rescalings of community based agro-ecology innovation and resilience. Where does working with scales make a difference – to systems, to observers and to actors? It has been in urban and peri-urban niches, that many recent innovations in scales of food activism and research have taken place.

Participant invitations:
John Barry (Politics, QUB), Tom Wakeford (Coventry, Agro-ecology), Nina Laurie (St Andrews, Geography), Heather Swanson (CAS, Aarhus) Michelle Bastian (Philosophy, Edinburgh), Pam Warhurst (Incredible Edible), Katerina Psarikidou (Sociology, Lancaster), Adrian Favell (Sociology Leeds), Robert Biel (UCL, Development Planning), Karen Johnson (Durham Engineering), Andy Stirling (STEPS, Sussex), Maurice Mitchell (CASS. Professor of Architecture of Rapid Change and Scarce Resources), Les Firbank (Leeds Biology), Jon Lovett (Leeds, Biology), Lena Dominelli, (Durham SASS), Rebecca Whittle (Sociology, Lancaster).

Contact for more information about this event.