Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Playing with the Line, Channelling Multiplicity: Wind Power Planning in the Narbonnaise (Aude, France)

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Playing with the Line, Channelling Multiplicity: Wind Power Planning in the Narbonnaise (Aude, France)

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

Wind power is commonly considered one of the short-term solutions to greenhouse gas reduction. Its uneven development at the national level has triggered a growing literature interested in the institutional and social factors influencing it. These factors include institutional learning (eg, Breukers and Wolsink, 2007), social networks (eg, Agterbosch et-al, 2009), project ownership (eg, Meyer, 2007; Warren and McFadyen, 2010), cobenefits for local communities (eg, Aitken, 2010), early public consultation (eg, Ellis et-al, 2007; Toke et-al, 2008), and fairness and trust-building (Aitken, 2010; Gross, 2007). The role of planning has also been discussed (Ellis et-al, 2009; Nadai and Van der Horst, 2010), notably in relation to landscape issues (eg, Nadai, 2007).

In planning practices, mapping is a synthetic mode of acquiring and packing knowledge. It enables anticipatory action. However, because mapping does this, planning often becomes normative and tends to overlook the potentialities that are immanent in the territory or the landscape. It is fairly common for wind power planning approaches to endow cartographic forms with a prescriptive power and to deduce the future energy landscapes from the representations of existing landscape. (1) The conventional analysis of graphic forms tends to reproduce this twist by focusing on the representational function of maps in planning processes.

In this paper (2) we explore the way in which landscape is circulated in an innovative wind power planning process in southern France (Narbonnaise, Ande department, Languedoc-Roussillon). By 'innovative', we mean that planners' decisions relate to the site/situation which they aim to transform rather than to preexisting norms or abstract territorial representations, as is so often the case in wind power planning processes. This planning process has a direct consequence: it succeeds in taking into account the existing local landscape and in engaging it in a transformative process.

This echoes to a certain extent the recent literature on park planning and conservation issues which has focused on how planning can account for and develop the way in which the local population practice and experience space. Analyses have shown how participation in (eg, Hoole and Berkes, 2010) or resistance to (eg, Bonta, 2005) planning processes can endow both planned space and local spaces with a new existence and pave the way for future changes, even if statutory or infrastructural achievements remain limited at the time of these processes.

Beyond such similarities, we focus on the relational properties of the graphic representations which underlie the Narbonnaise planning process. We make a contribution to the social analysis of representation, considered as the generic activity of bringing a reality into new types of existence. The argument developed is that the materiality of these representations (ie, cartographic lines, contours, figure/background relationships) is a relevant basis for adjusting new relations (density, covisibilities) which structure an emerging reality (wind power landscapes). Hence the title of the paper, "Playing with the line, channelling multiplicity", connects the materiality of graphic forms with the nonrepresentational--with the multiplicity of the emerging energy landscapes.

Our analysis is an attempt to overcome the opposition between representational and nonrepresentational strands in cultural geography. (3) In the representational strand landscape and space are approached through their forms and the associated modes of representations; such a strand explores the impact of representations on social formations (Cosgrove and Daniels, 1988; Roger, 1997). The nonrepresentational goes the other way round: it involves a focus on social relations, social practices, and situated action as drivers of the emergence of new space and/or landscapes (Hetherington and Law, 2000; Lorimer, 2005; Nast and Pile, 1998; Rose and Thrift, 2000; Rose and Wylie, 2006). …

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