Understanding Attachment to Utilitarian Landscapes and Wind Energy Support in the Chignecto Area
Chappell, Ellen Nicola
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While increasing production from renewable sources is of critical importance to address climate change and other global issues, it requires the construction of new infrastructure, which is often highly visible and located near communities. Unlike fossil fuel generation, which usually occurs in remote locations, the success of renewable energy production depends on support from communities for infrastructure in their landscape. Landscapes evolve to meet the changing needs of societies, and renewable energy production will change landscapes around the world in coming decades, with support for these changes from surrounding communities dependent on many factors. The purpose of this study is to explore factors influencing support for wind energy from communities around an existing wind farm, in an area that has experienced other changes to local infrastructure. The study examines how residents perceive change to past utilitarian landscape features and how this influences support for future change in the context of wind energy. The study also explores other factors influencing support, specifically the distribution of energy and benefits from wind development. This research is guided by the framework of climax thinking, which is used to understand how people respond to change in their landscape and proposes that people are more likely to oppose change if they believe their surroundings to be static and fail to imagine past landscapes, future landscapes, or landscapes that occur elsewhere as a result of their energy use. Research was conducted in the Chignecto area of Atlantic Canada, a region with a long history of interaction between humans and the environment and significant change to built landscapes over recent decades. The area is losing or has lost four landscape features: dykes from the 1600s are being moved or restored to salt marsh due to rising sea levels, foundries built in the 1800s no longer exist, most of the giant hay barns from the 1800s have collapsed or been removed, and radio towers dating from the Second World War were recently dismantled. Additionally, a wind farm was constructed near the Town of Amherst in 2012. A mail-out survey was designed and distributed to randomly selected homes in the region, achieving a response rate of 40%. All surveys contained question sets asking about exposure to wind turbines; support for wind energy development; place attachment to the Chignecto area; beliefs concerning distribution of energy and benefits from wind farms; and demographics. Half the surveys also contained an experimental section asking residents how they feel about past landscape change in the Chignecto area. Results found that residents demonstrate attachment to past utilitarian landscapes, and analysis revealed this attachment to be independent of both place attachment and time in the region, but higher among males and conservatives. Attachment to past landscapes also increases wind support among people who currently see turbines from their home, but is not a significant predictor of support for people who can’t, suggesting wind turbines can become a part of people’s ‘climax landscape’. Many commonly used predictors of wind support, such as place attachment or community ownership, lack significance in this study, particularly at the local scale. New predictors, including support for additional renewable energy generation for export beyond local needs and agreement that wind turbines provide a reminder of energy use and generation, instead emerge at the local scale. This thesis explores how residents think about change to utilitarian features and wind energy generation in their surrounding landscape, suggesting new opportunities for understanding support for renewable energy development.