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Mutually-Beneficial Renewable Energy Systems

Matthew J Burke


Recognizing the present mass extinction of species and populations worldwide, considerable effort is underway to resolve tensions between achieving high levels of renewable energy development and protecting ecosystems and biodiversity. Moving beyond common mitigation measures designed to avoid or minimize adverse impacts, this paper takes a relational view of energy futures to explore the opportunities and implications of rethinking renewable energy systems as processes for restoration and healing of human-nature relationships. In a relational view, avoiding or minimizing harm is necessary but insufficient for establishing healthy enduring relationships based on mutual benefit between humans and nonhuman nature. The primary aim of the paper is to identify a set of practices for renewable energy technologies that support ecological enhancement through their deployment and use, as discovered through recent research and practice. The paper first presents the case for mutual benefit as a crucial principle for guiding renewable energy developments due to reasons of practice, ecology, ethics, and culture, and goes on to provide examples of mutually-beneficial energy development across a range of technologies. The study reveals options for renewable energy systems as a whole to be assembled, operated and repurposed for the co-benefit of humans and nonhuman nature.


biodiversity; co-benefits; conservation; ecosystems; energy and environment; energy ethics; energy landscapes; mutual benefit; renewable energy transition; restoration

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2018-001-burk

Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Matteo Andreozzi
Associate Editors: Rod Bennison - Alma Massaro - Kim Stallwood - Jessica Ulrich
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Matthew R. Calarco - Gabriele Cambiotti - Piergiorgio Donatelli - Arianna Ferrari - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Barbara Muraca - Serpil Oppermann - Piergiacomo Pagano - Paola Sobbrio - Sabrina Tonutti