Klima og energiomstilling
Ph.d-prosjekt 2020

Models for Innovative Collaboration in Sustainable Land Use Issues (MIC.SULU)

The project works with case studies in Norway where communities are faced with land use and cover change challenges due to the establishment of onshore wind farms. As evident from recent public opposition, those challenges are substantial and therefore call for new forms of cooperation and informed, long-term land use planning.

unsplash.com, Gustavo Quepon


In 2020, I started working on the first paper of my research project, aiming to understand the different perspectives and needs of communities in Norway where onshore wind farms have been developed. Reviewing the literature on social and community acceptance has emphasised the multi-faceted nature of peoples’ responses to green energy infrastructure, especially at the local level, as well as the significance of looking further than the “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) view of such responses. As also my preliminary data analysis suggests, peoples’ attachments to the place they live, as well as their meanings around their own role in planning processes are highly important and can be significant enough to lead to resistance to wind farms. In order to enhance acceptance at the local level, an approach that includes and engages actors with different interests and meanings can be highly beneficial.

The design of the next stages of the project builds on this understanding, as well as to the fact that the deployment on onshore wind farms is a “wicked” issue. Such issues are difficult to view at a whole-system level and even more difficult to manage, making tools such as participatory system dynamics model building particularly appropriate for their exploration. In such a process, we work with stakeholders with different perspectives and land use interests and facilitate dialogue and collaboration in the development of systems maps that incorporate their viewpoints. Systems maps emphasise the interactions between elements of the system from a feedback perspective and are used to provide insights at various temporal and spatial dimensions. Moreover, they can operate as boundary objects; shared representations of an issue that can assist individuals collaborate effectively across boundaries. This type of collaboration is particularly significant for onshore wind deployment and the energy transition broadly, making it important to investigate how such collective meaning-making processes can be facilitated and what roles can different psychological and physical tools have.

Despite the benefits of co-developed systems maps, they are still limited in their ability to allow for hands-on experimentation with different decision rules or to incorporate the high degree of uncertainty that characterises transitions. Computer simulation models can therefore prove invaluable to show what the consequences of potential actions can be. System dynamics simulation models built on the products of the previous participatory process are used to explore future scenarios that have been identified as relevant by the stakeholders. During such an exploration, we are particularly interested in how differing worldviews on sustainable futures can come in dialogue with the assistance of simulation models, as well as the potential of the process to allow for imaginatively taking the position of future others who will be impacted by the decisions we make today.

As a whole, this PhD projects aims to contribute resources that promote collaboration and assist actors in making decisions on sustainable land use issues. The project started in November 2020 and is expected to be concluded December 2024.