Power Struggles: Dignity, Value, and the Renewable Energy Frontier in Spain

Power Struggles: Dignity, Value, and the Renewable Energy Frontier in Spain

Power Struggles: Dignity, Value, and the Renewable Energy Frontier in Spain

Power Struggles: Dignity, Value, and the Renewable Energy Frontier in Spain

Synopsis

Wind energy is often portrayed as a panacea for the environmental and political ills brought on by an overreliance on fossil fuels, but this characterization may ignore the impact wind farms have on the regions that host them. Power Struggles investigates the uneven allocation of risks and benefits in the relationship between the regions that produce this energy and those that consume it.

Jaume Franquesa considers Spain, a country where wind now constitutes the main source of energy production. In particular, he looks at the Southern Catalonia region, which has traditionally been a source of energy production through nuclear reactors, dams, oil refineries, and gas and electrical lines. Despite providing energy that runs the country, the region is still forced to the political and economic periphery as the power they produce is controlled by centralized, international Spanish corporations. Local resistance to wind farm installation in Southern Catalonia relies on the notion of dignity: the ability to live within one's means and according to one's own decisions. Power Struggles shows how, without careful attention, renewable energy production can reinforce patterns of exploitation even as it promises a fair and hopeful future.

Excerpt

Doesn’t a breath of the air that pervaded earlier days caress us as well?
—Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History

“HEY, you, toronto, what are you doing on Sunday?” Bernat asked the question without raising his head. He was focused on his job: carrying a load of justharvested almonds from his small tractor and laying them to dry on a tarp outside his house. Rain was the least of his worries: four long months had gone by since the last rain, back in May.

Toronto—the city where I was living when I began this research—had become my nickname among the villagers of Fatarella, in the Southern Catalan county of Terra Alta (High Land). “Everyone has a name here, otherwise no one would know who you are,” Bernat had once told me. Where last names are for outsiders and official institutions and first names are confined to immediate family, nicknames authenticate the visitor.

Bernat was my neighbor. His principal nickname was also the name of his household, an old and respected one in the village; the year 1700, sculpted in the lintel of his house, quietly asserted that temporal depth. Among the first people I met in Fatarella, he was completing a two-year term as president of the local agrarian cooperative in 2010. Bernat was a pagès (peasant, farmer), but despite owning a fair amount of land, he had to supplement his agrarian income with temporary jobs in the nuclear plants of Ascó, just ten kilometers downhill from the village. His wife worked as a cashier in a supermarket of Móra, the main commercial town of the area, and his daughter attended high school in Gandesa, the county capital.

“I have no plans. Any suggestions?” I replied.

“We are going on an excursion. You can join us, but be ready to walk.” He added, “It’ll be the whole colla.” That is, Bernat would be joined by a healthy quorum of his long-standing group of friends—male and female—formed during adolescence.

“Great, where are we going?”

“Where the world ends,” he answered with shiny eyes. Then he paused and switched the topic. “Do you have almonds? No, you don’t, my lord, you have nothing. Come, let’s go inside; you need a bag.”

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