RGS-IBG Annual International Conference
Several members of the London Water Research Group presented at the 2016 Annual International Conference of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). LWRG sessions included:
- The Water-Gender-Violence Nexus in Disasters and Daily Lives
Awareness of the complexity of the links between water, gender, and violence is growing in research. Tragic cases in India of young women raped and murdered while searching for a spot to defecate drew the eyes of the world to the strong – and often horrific – ties between water for sanitation and hygiene and gender-based violence. Poor infrastructure creates opportunities for violence. Both temporary and permanent circumstances of limited resources and poor infrastructure can affect the way people interact with each other, both positively and negatively. The potential of water – in its abundance, scarcity, use, misuse, or related infrastructure – to be a driver of conflict and violence can only be understood via credible, extensive, and ground level research in a multiplicity of circumstances. In this session, cases from around the world will be used to question whether and how water is a gendered resource, how gendered dimensions plays out in water access and distribution, how discourses of water help shape gender-based violence, and how water might be leveraged as a tool against gender-based violence.
- Environmental Peacebuilding: The Peace-Environment-Conflict Nexus
“Environmental peacebuilding” is an emerging concept recognising the potential of the natural environment to play a role in post-conflict rebuilding and peaceful relations between communities in conflict. This session will examine the logic of the environmental peacebuilding rationale and the links between peace, the natural environment, and conflict. The focus will be on critically considering when and where peacebuilding does and should happen, the unique position occupied by nature in these processes, and the need to examine both the negative and positive consequences of environmental concerns. Examining theoretical debates and including practitioner and activist voices, the session will consider whether environmental scarcity inevitably leads to conflict; what the goal of environmental peacebuilding is and should be; how the natural environment might be understood as a tool, actor, and/or stakeholder in peacebuilding processes; and how various actors at multiple scales might learn from successful examples of environmental peacebuilding?
- The Environment-Education-Empowerment Nexus
Part I of this session will explore the premise that student engagement as researchers in Education-Practitioner Partnerships can enable students to be a key nexus in the practical application of geography both at the time, through their activity in partnership, and in the future, through the pedagogic development and networking skills they gain through partnership. We will share perspectives on opportunities and challenges offered by a range of stakeholders including students, professional practitioners and academic researchers across the breadth of the discipline. Part II will take a closer look at the concept and pedagogy of “environmental learning”. Environmental learning may refer to education about the environment and natural ecosystems, education taking place outdoors surrounded by nature, or ecologically focused instruction with sustainability as an aim. This session seeks to understand the interplays between the natural environment, teaching and learning, and empowerment – for teachers, students, economies, communities, and nature itself. The session will make use of both local case study and pedagogical theory to consider these relationships. The two sessions will focus primarily on practical case studies, with the chair facilitating discussion between and across the case studies to highlight emerging themes. A discussion with the audience will help to raise further questions and issues in order to inform conclusions about the efficacy and potential of environmental learning for education, empowerment, and sustainability.
- State, Territory, Urbanism: Exploring the Nexus Between Government and Infrastructure
This session will consider how research on the techno-political nexus between sovereignty and the ‘stuff’ of public services, namely large technological systems, infrastructural capacity and logistical centres, can provide original insights into traditional issues of statehood, nation-building, governance and socio-economic restructuring. It includes a paper by LWRG Member Filippo Menga on “Why disciplines, images and levels of analysis should coexist in the study of transboundary water politics”. While a considerable amount of research in the field of International Relations (IR) has acknowledged the interplay between domestic politics and foreign policy, few studies have investigated this phenomenon in the narrower field of transboundary water politics. Furthermore, there is a general lack of research exploring how the formation of a national identity can overlap with the construction of a large hydraulic infrastructure, and how this can in turn have repercussions at the international level. This paper draws on Robert Putnam’s (1988) two-level game theory to illustrate how the interrelation between the domestic and the international dimension matters in transboundary water politics. Insights from IR, political geography and water politics will form a conceptual framework that will then be linked to nationalism studies. This will serve to highlight the analytical relevance of such a perspective to understand the issue of large dams, with references to the cases of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia and of the Rogun Dam in Tajikistan.
- Hydrosocial or socio-hydro? Cross-disciplinary discussions on Deltas as nexus of social, technical and physical systems
The last decade has seen the exploration across disciplines, but especially by physical and human geographers, of water as simultaneously social and natural. In the age of the Anthropocene, natural scientists refer to socio-hydrology, while social scientists refer to the hydrosocial. They both agree – but with important differences – on needing to understand the interplay between human and natural systems. This session aims to understand the differences, similarities, and implications of the hydro-social-technical paradigms in use. Waterscapes where this issue is particularly pertinent are deltas. Deltas are special places, where the relationships between humans and nature is often strongly, and increasingly, mediated by technology. Traditions of ‘living with water’, with modest interventions, are in many places superseded by modernity’s aim to control: dikes prevent flooding, groins and embankments fix the river channels’ position, polders enable micro-water level management for the benefit of agriculture. The conceptualisation of delta systems should therefore give due recognition to the constituting role of technology. This session aims to explore this relationship of technology with social and natural processes within the context of delta, theoretically and/or empirically. We want to compare the reasons for, and implications of, the choice of paradigm for research and policy on deltas. Our purpose is not to judge competing claims but to start a meaningful conversation. We want to assess possibilities and constraints in the light of pragmatic questions: what can we learn when we employ these different approaches, what different rationales for action do they suggest, what scope exists for collaboration? We also ask to what extent paradigms are incommensurable, and under what circumstances they may not be. Our tentative proposal is that ‘narrative’ is the common ground that can be a shared endeavour amongst disparate paradigms. We therefore also look for speculative papers that propose how such engagement around narratives may be implemented in research.
- Seeking and contesting environmental security in a complex world: Knowledge, agency and governance implications
Environmental security remains a key feature of global concerns to stability and development, as demonstrated in the 2016 Global Risks Report by the World Economic Forum highlighting effects of climate change, water and energy crises. While the concept of environmental security is not new, nowadays it concerns a wide range of climate, energy, food, water, biodiversity and migration issues, in addition to the interlinked impacts between and across them. At the same time, the referent object of security is multiple and less evident in contrast to statist interpretations of environmental security. Recent scholarship on environmental security calls for a better examination of global economic structures and human-biophysical processes of the anthropocene that mediate causes and implications of insecurities (Dalby 2013). Understanding environmental security thus encompasses a critical examination of the politics determining complex and multiple threats. What kinds of thresholds and trigger points are identified to establish risks and threats? What kinds of knowledge are used to explain causes of threats? How are inter-connected risks across sectors such as climate and migration, water-food-energy understood? The politics of environmental security sheds light on the normative assumptions and framing of threats. Actors strategize and challenge logics of security, which may not necessarily distribute the benefits and burdens of dealing with threats equally across society. Drawing on a range of environmental contexts, the panel will discuss the language and knowledge of securitising the environment; actors and referent objects of security; implications of governing for environmental security on socio-economic and ecological processes.
World Water Congress
The London Water Research Group hosted a session at the World Water Congress in Edinburgh, held 25-29 May 2015, entitled ‘Levelling players and context: Re-examining policy for transboundary water allocation and governance’. For details of the Congress, please see http://worldwatercongress.com. For a blog post on the Congress from LWRG Member Steph Hawkins, see here.
The London Water Research Group regularly holds seminars in and around London. Below are materials from just a few recent seminars.
- 10 March 2015, 16:00-17:30
Dale Whittington, Professor of Environmental Sciences & Engineering, City & Regional Planning, and Public Policy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“Reflections on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Implications for Regional Cooperation on the Nile”
King’s College London, Strand Campus, Pyramid Room
- 3 February 2015: Thanks to Erik Swyngedouw for a fantastic Annual Lecture, held jointly with King’s College London’s “Environment, Politics, and Development” Reseach Group! Erik spoke on his forthcoming book, “Liquid Power: Contested Hydro-Modernities in 20th Century Spain”.
- 10 February 2015, 16:00-17:30
Professorial Research Fellow, Grantham Research Institute, LSE
‘Water security and climate change’
- Peter Rogers, Harvard University, 18 October 2010 – “Running Out of Water: Or just another six-point plan to resolve the water crisis?“
International Hydro-Hegemony Workshops
Every few years, the London Water Research Group holds an international workshop bringing together researchers, practitioners and activists to further analysis over water resources and power.
- HH1 (held 20-22 May 2005)
- HH2 (held 6-7 May 2006)
- HH3 (held 12-13 May 2007)
- HH4 (held 31 May – 1 June 2008)
- HH5: Water Security – Competing Discourses (held 8-9 May 2010)
- HH6: Transboundary Water Justice (held 12-13 January 2013)
- HH7: Contesting Hegemony (held 10-11 May 2014)
LWRG at Other Events
The London Water Research Group hosts panels at various academic conferences, holds side events at major water events around the world, and meets informally throughout the year.