The urban resource nexus: On the politics of relationality, water–energy infrastructure and the fallacy of integration

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Abstract

The ‘resource nexus’ has emerged over the past decade as an important new paradigm of environmental governance, which emphasises the interconnections, tensions and synergies between sectors that have traditionally been managed separately. Nexus thinking presents itself as a radically new approach to integrated governance in response to interconnected socio-environmental challenges and constraints. This paper provides a critical review of nexus thinking. The nexus paradigm, we contend, is part of a broader trend towards integrated environmental governance where previously externalised ‘bad’ nature is increasingly internalised by capital. In general, the nexus discourse has become techno-managerial in style, linear in its analysis and reductionist in its recommendations. Focussing particularly on urban water and energy infrastructure as important political sites in the (re)configuration of resource connectivities, we advance two principal arguments. Firstly, that the current nexus thinking inadequately conceptualises the scalar politics of interconnections between resource sectors. Secondly, we challenge the currently pervasive focus on technological and institutional ‘solutions’, efficiency-oriented ecological modernist vision and the presentation of ‘integration’ as a panacea for unsustainable resource practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)652-669
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Volume37
Issue number4
Early online date8 Oct 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019

Keywords

  • infrastructure
  • integration
  • neoliberalism
  • political ecology
  • Water–energy nexus

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Urban Institute

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