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What is driving the Water-Energy-Food Nexus? Discourses, knowledge and politics of an emerging resource governance concept

  • In the context of accelerated global socio-environmental change, the Water-Energy-Food Nexus has received increasing attention within science and international politics by promoting integrated resource governance. This study explores the scientific nexus debates from a discourse analytical perspective to reveal knowledge and power relations as well as geographical settings of nexus research. We also investigate approaches to socio-nature relations that influence nexus research and subsequent political implications. Our findings suggest that the leading nexus discourse is dominated by natural scientific perspectives and a neo-Malthusian framing of environmental challenges. Accordingly, the promoted cross-sectoral nexus approach to resource governance emphasizes efficiency, security, future sustainability, and poverty reduction. Water, energy, and food are conceived as global trade goods that require close monitoring, management and control, to be achieved via quantitative assessments and technological interventions. Within the less visible discourse, social scientific perspectives engage with the social, political, and normative elements of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus. These perspectives criticize the dominant nexus representation for itsmanagerial, neoliberal, and utilitarian approach to resource governance. The managerial framing is critiqued for masking power relations and social inequalities, while alternative framings acknowledge the political nature of resource governance and socio-nature relations. The spatial dimensions of the nexus debate are also discussed. Notably, the nexus is largely shaped by western knowledge, yet applied mainly in specific regions of the Global South. In order for the nexus to achieve integrative solutions for sustainability, the debate needs to overcome its current discursive and spatial separations. To this end, we need to engage more closely with alternative nexus discourses, embrace epistemic pluralism and encourage multi-perspective debates about the socio-nature relations we actually intend to promote.

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Author:Viviana Wiegleb, Antje Bruns
Parent Title (English):Frontiers in Environmental Science
Editor:Jill A. Engel-Cox
Document Type:Article
Date of completion:2018/12/12
Date of publication:2018/10/30
Publishing institution:Universit├Ąt Trier
Contributing corporation:The publication was funded by the Open Access Fund of Universit├Ąt Trier and the German Research Foundation (DFG)
Release Date:2018/12/12
Tag:discourse analysis; geography of knowledge; resource governance; socio-nature relations; sustainability
GND Keyword:Diskursanalyse; Energie; Nachhaltigkeit; Nahrung; Ressourcenpolitik; Wasser
Volume (for the year ...):2018
Issue / no.:6
Number of pages:15
Source:Frontiers in Environmental Science 6 (2018)
Institutes:Fachbereich 6 / Geographie und Geowissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 55 Geowissenschaften, Geologie / 550 Geowissenschaften
Licence (German):License LogoCC BY: Creative-Commons-Lizenz 4.0 International

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