'Greenies vs Coal Communities?' - Geographies of deliberation in Victorian climate change and energy debates — ASN Events

'Greenies vs Coal Communities?' - Geographies of deliberation in Victorian climate change and energy debates (17147)

Dan Musil 1
  1. University of Western Sydney , Sydney

Despite increasingly dire warnings about 'climate emergency', decisions regarding climate change mitigation and energy production in Australia have been characterised by heated political debate. According to the dominant framing of this problem, competing interests have brought various stakeholders into conflict, and such conflict is seen as an impasse to decisive and effective action.
This paper follows an action research project undertaken in 2013, which aimed to both explore and cultivate deliberations between two stakeholder groups typically portrayed at the heart of such conflict: Melbourne-based environmentalists demanding a reduction in fossil fuel use; and 'coal communities' in Victoria's LaTrobe Valley, for whom the coal industry currently plays a significant economic role. Focus group methodology was used and expanded to create 'deliberative spaces' involving members of both groups, and so became a research process and a researched process. The research thus sought to examine the ways that participants discussed, understood and constructed low-carbon transition in the Latrobe Valley, but also how participants from these geographically distinct stakeholder groups interacted and 'deliberated' with each other. The potential for such interaction and deliberation to affect participant subjectivities, attitudes towards and engagement with low-carbon transition (and each other) remains a motivating interest – an interest that this paper aims to stoke further as interesting ground for further investigation.
This paper is concerned with the geographies low-carbon energy transition in the context of climate change mitigation; action research methods; and how the latter might be employed to both explore and serve the former. It will reflect upon the particular adaptation and application of focus group method used in the action-research project, along with the particular conceptions of transition that were deliberated upon and their implications for advancing low-carbon transition. Ongoing doctoral research into the dynamics and possibilities of Latrobe Valley energy transition, taking inspiration from a diverse economies approach, will be proposed.