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Socio-cultural and linguistic sustainability and renewable energy development in island communities:


Socio-cultural and linguistic sustainability and renewable energy development in island communities


An interdisciplinary perspective


The impacts of climate change are being felt ever more acutely worldwide, with coastal communities and small islands especially vulnerable to its adverse effects. Among those peripheral areas whose sustainability is particularly threatened by climate change are three of Scotland’s culturally and linguistically distinct archipelagos: Orkney, Shetland, and the Hebrides. At the same time, these three island communities are also at the centre of one of the most prominent global responses to climate change: investment in the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies, which aim to contribute to Scottish, UK, and international low carbon energy policy goals. While the environmental and economic impact of such development has been subject to extensive discussion and assessment among policymakers and industry, the social and cultural impact of renewable energy projects on their surrounding communities has remained underexplored. 

On December 11th, Heriot-Watt University will be hosting a workshop to better understand how local communities perceive and understand the effects of climate change and renewable energy development on their social and cultural sustainability. 

The workshop will look at interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability with a focus on social, cultural and linguistic sustainability in communities where there has been renewable energy investment as well as communities affected by climate change more broadly. 

The workshop will also be attended by Canadian Anthropologist Donna Patrick who will give a talk as part of the IRC seminar series entitled Linguistic Sustainability, local knowledge and transformation in the Artic.

For more details contact Bernie O'Rourke

Professor O'Rourkes's research focuses on the role of language in the construction of social difference and social inequality. See: The workshop is underpinned by an award to Professor O'Rourke supported by the Energy Academy Fledge Grant initiative to study how vulnerable island communities and those living in "economically and politically marginal areas in diverse and fragile ecosystems such as Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides are affected by energy developments. To read Professor O'Rourke's report, click here

What has become known as the Blue Economy, is now considered to be a major contributor to economic output and employment. Research into oceans and protection of our oceans is a major area of strength for Heriot-Watt particularly in relation to deep sea mining and geology, the impact of offshore renewables on the environment, the management of offshore assets, the restoration of ocean ecosystems and catch fisheries. Offshore renewable Energy from wind and wave and tide is part of this new Blue Economy and has become a growth industry. In November 2017, offshore wind energy was providing 134GWh of electricity. By 2030 the OECD has estimated that offshore wind will provide employment for over 435,000 people and a GVA of $230 Billion. With the Strike Price of current offshore wind developments having fallen from £115p/MWh in Q1/2015 to 57.5p/MWh as offshore wind technologies mature, offshore wind is anticipated to become a significant component of Europe's energy mix and is an area where the UK excels. Wave and Tidal energy generation has not yet reached this capacity but as the technology matures, it is anticipated to expand fast. The OECD has suggested that in order to realise the ocean economy’s long-term potential in terms of growth and job creation more effective steps will be needed to improve integrated ocean management including ecosystem preservation at local, regional, national and international level. Understanding the impact of these energy developments on communities at risk is a vital component of the knowledge that is needed to drive this growth.

To learn more about Heriot-Watt's work on the Blue Economy, contact the Energy Academy 

Updated Patrick McCarthy 06th December 2017

 Full Article Image: Spurness Solstice copyright Andrew Wood 2014

 Intro image copyright Sarah Campana 2014



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