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Visions for sustainable energy transformations: integrating power and politics in the Mediterranean Region

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This dissertation examines the nexus of three trends in electricity systems transformations underway worldwide—the scale-up of renewable energy, regionalization, and liberalization. Interdependent electricity systems are being envisioned that require partnership and integration across power disparities. This research explores how actors

This dissertation examines the nexus of three trends in electricity systems transformations underway worldwide—the scale-up of renewable energy, regionalization, and liberalization. Interdependent electricity systems are being envisioned that require partnership and integration across power disparities. This research explores how actors in the Mediterranean region envisioned a massive scale-up of renewable energy within a single electricity system and market across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. It asks: How are regional sociotechnical systems envisioned? What are the anticipated consequences of a system for a region with broad disparities and deep sociopolitical differences? What can be learned about energy justice by examining this vision at multiple scales? A sociotechnical systems framework is used to analyze energy transformations, interweaving the technical aspects with politics, societal effects, and political development issues. This research utilized mixed qualitative methods to analyze Mediterranean electricity transformations at multiple scales, including fieldwork in Morocco and Germany, document analysis, and event ethnography. Each scale—from a global history of concentrating solar power technologies to a small village in Morocco—provides a different lens on the sociotechnical system and its implications for justice. This study updates Thomas Hughes’ Networks of Power, the canonical history of the sociotechnical development of electricity systems, by adding new aspects to sociotechnical electricity systems theory. First, a visioning process now plays a crucial role in guiding innovation and has a lasting influence on the justice outcomes. Second, rather than simply providing people with heat and light, electrical power systems in the 21st century are called upon to address complex integrated solutions. Furthermore, building a sustainable energy system is now a retrofitting agenda, as system builders must graft new infrastructure on top of old systems. Third, the spatial and temporal aspects of sociotechnical energy systems should be amended to account for constructed geography and temporal complexity. Fourth, transnational electricity systems pose new challenges for politics and political development. Finally, this dissertation presents a normative framework for conceptualizing and evaluating energy justice. Multi-scalar, systems-level justice requires collating diverse ideas about energy justice, expanding upon them based on the empirical material, and evaluating them with this framework.

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2015

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Multi-scale analysis of the opportunities and threats of large-scale land acquisitions (LaSLA) to the sustainable development of Sub-Saharan Africa (with a focus on Tanzania)

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Large-scale land acquisition (LaSLA), also called "land grabbing" refers to the buying or leasing of large tracts of land, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by foreign investors to produce food and biofuel to send back home. Since 2007, LaSLA has

Large-scale land acquisition (LaSLA), also called "land grabbing" refers to the buying or leasing of large tracts of land, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by foreign investors to produce food and biofuel to send back home. Since 2007, LaSLA has become an important development issue due to the opportunities and threats for SSA countries. LaSLA has the potential to create local jobs, transfer technology, build infrastructure, and modernize SSA's agriculture. Nonetheless, it can also aggravate food insecurity, perpetuate corruption, degrade ecosystems, cause conflicts, and displace local communities. What drives LaSLA, what are its impacts on local people, and under what circumstances can we consider it as just and ethical?

To examine what drives LaSLA, I used country level data from 2005 to 2013 on economic conditions, natural resources, business practices, and governance to estimate LaSLA models. I find that LaSLA increases with increasing government effectiveness, land prices, and the ease of doing business, and decreases with stronger regulatory regimes. To assess LaSLA's impacts on local people, I conducted a comparative case study in Tanzania. I compare changes in peoples' livelihood between treatment villages (those experiencing LaSLA) and control villages (those without LaSLA projects). The results show that under current practices, the risks of LaSLA outweigh the benefits to local livelihoods, yet there are potential benefits if LaSLA is implemented correctly.

To philosophically examine whether LaSLA can be considered just and ethical, I apply John Rawls' theory of justice. The analysis indicates that from both procedural and distributive justice perspective, LaSLA currently fails to satisfy Rawlsian principles of justice. From these analyses, I conclude that if implemented correctly, LaSLA can produce a win-win outcome for both investors and host countries. I suggest that strong governance, rigorous environmental and social impact assessment, and inclusion of local people at all levels of LaSLA decision making are critical for sustainable and equitable outcomes.

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Date Created
2017

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Disconnected: investigating the social and political conditions shaping Mexico City's air quality regulatory environment

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Mexico City has an ongoing air pollution issue that negatively affects its citizens and surroundings with current structural disconnections preventing the city from improving its overall air quality. Thematic methodological analysis reveals current obstacles and barriers, as well as variables

Mexico City has an ongoing air pollution issue that negatively affects its citizens and surroundings with current structural disconnections preventing the city from improving its overall air quality. Thematic methodological analysis reveals current obstacles and barriers, as well as variables contributing to this persistent problem. A historical background reveals current programs and policies implemented to improve Mexico’s City air quality. Mexico City’s current systems, infrastructure, and policies are inadequate and ineffective. There is a lack of appropriate regulation on other modes of transportation, and the current government system fails to identify how the class disparity in the city and lack of adequate education are contributing to this ongoing problem. Education and adequate public awareness can potentially aid the fight against air pollution in the Metropolitan City.

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2018