Tag Archives: renewable resources

Energy dilemmas

I-Hsien Porter

In a paper in The Geographical Journal, Michael Bradshaw describes two pressures facing energy policy.

First, there is the need to guarantee a reliable and affordable supply of energy. Energy security can be threatened by domestic disputes (e.g. in France, recent strike action caused the country to import large amounts of electricity) and international tensions (which led Russia to restrict gas exports via a pipeline to Belarus, in June 2010).

Second, the current reliance on carbon-based fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) is unsustainable. The economic and environmental costs of extracting fossil fuels, alongside the threat of climate change, means that it is increasingly difficult to match demand with carbon-based energy sources.

The Statement on Energy Policy, recently announced by the UK government, reflects these concerns. The policy envisages half the new energy capacity built in the UK between now and 2025 will come from renewable sources. Nuclear and wind power are highlighted as key areas for development.

However, as Bradshaw argues in his paper, emerging economies in the global South will cause a shift in global energy demand and production. Geographers can play a key role in informing national policies and investment, by linking changing patterns in global energy use and resource distribution, to national and local impacts.

The Guardian (18th October 2010) ‘Severn barrage ditched as new nuclear plants get green light’

Bradshaw, M. J. (2010) ‘Global energy dilemmas: a geographical perspective’, The Geographical Journal (Early view)

Opportunities for sustainability

I-Hsien Porter

Recycling bins

Recycling bins: sustainability in action?

From the 2012 Olympics to doorstep recycling collections, one issue that geographers are repeatedly confronted with is ‘sustainability.’ For example, in a recent photography project, the photographer Andy Spain imagines how London’s architecture would look in a more sustainable and ‘greener’ future.

One of the most widely used definitions of sustainable development is that of the UN’s Brundtland Report, published in the 1980s: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

A paper by Colin Williams and Andrew Millington, in The Geographical Journal, explores two possible responses to sustainable development, either (1) increasing the amount of resources available or, (2) reducing the amount of resources we need.

Many of our responses to the sustainability challenge have focused on the first option. Developing renewable resources, finding substitutes or making more effective use of resources are all ways in which we can meet present and future needs.

But long term planning must also look at ways of reducing the demands we place on the Earth (e.g. by consuming less), so that we need fewer resources to meet our needs in the first place.

In practice, the boundaries between these two approaches are rather more blurred, and sustainable development usually involves some combination of both. This, argue Williams and Millington, generates new opportunities to unite different aspects of geography to generate new ideas about our planet’s future.

‘Ecocities’, a photography project by Andy Spain

Williams, C. and Millington, A. (2004) ‘The Diverse and Contested Meanings of Sustainable Development’, The Geographical Journal 170 (2): 99-104