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Environmentalism, Anti-environmentalism and Deep Stories about Wind Energy Development in Rural Alberta

  • Author / Creator
    Aleksandra Afanasyeva
  • The energy transition mandated by the Government of Alberta has put wind energy at the center of discussions about transforming the electrical grid, with goals of reducing emissions and taking action on climate change. Based on in-depth interviews with 36 landowners and key informants (government and industry representatives) as well as excerpts from an Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) public hearing, a range of perspectives on wind energy development are documented. Discourses that encourage and promote the development of wind energy in the Province of Alberta are paralleled by wide-ranging oppositional voices, as well as deep-set reservations tied to environmentalism, community, landscape, energy, and identity. This thesis examines landowner and community reservations about wind energy, and the complexities of defining environmentalism, meanings of community, and the rural farming identity. In particular, this work takes place in the context of broader context of Alberta’s unique economic and social position in relation to energy production. Chapter 2 sets out to address whether those opposing wind energy development come from an anti-environmental standpoint. I demonstrate that a misalignment in discourses about what constitutes environmentalism is one of the most prevalent struggles in the wind energy debate in Alberta. Perspectives that oppose green energy initiatives cannot be dismissed as anti-environmentalist rhetoric. The tensions between strong environmentalist perspectives at the farm level and green energy politics at the provincial level are explored. The chapter concludes with reflections on environmentalism and anti-environmentalism in western Canada, and possibilities for more meaningful dialogue between groups with different political ideologies, environmental sensibilities and perspectives on energy development. Chapter 3 addresses notions of community and identity through Hochshild’s (2018) lens of the deep story. Deep stories signify what matter most to rural residents in relation to incoming wind energy projects. The importance of a rural farming identity and neighboring is explored in terms of the perceived threats to community cohesion, landscape, and the broader provincial identity. The rural farming identity is also explored in relation to its links to landscapes of energy development, and the inextricable link between industrial agriculture and oil and gas development. Deep stories of fairness, loss, division, and attachments to places and people are brought out in excerpts from landowners in relation to the impacts of wind energy development on their land and in their communities.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R31N7Z37P
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.