Title: Energy Ethics, Renewable Energy and Social Sustainability: Large-Scale Green Energy Projects, Commons Grabbing and Resilience
In public, as well as in the media and sciences, it has become evident that humanity will need to get away from fossil fuel energy, or at least change the composition of its energy provisions. This paradigm shift is based on discourse related to climate change primarily, as well as to the dangers and problems of nuclear energy waste management for future generations. As an alternative – and as a strategy of diversification – renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, as well as biofuels to some extent, are not just proposed but also used increasingly. This requires a critical look at the ethical standards regarding the impacts of these forms of energy production. My presentation does not focus on the small scale-use of renewable energy such as solar energy in Europe in small and medium sized companies and households for their own consumption. It rather focuses on the commodification process of green energy at large-scale, which is increasingly proposed, legitimized and established in the energy business and governments. I will argue that these green energy strategies must pass the test of social as well as ecological sustainability, because green energy production requires large tracks of land mostly in the global south such as in Africa.
I will present three case studies from Sierra Leone, Morocco and Kenya that were done with my research team, who explored the processes of land and commons grabbing. This latter term refers to the fact that land removed for renewable energy investments – in this context for biofuel plantations, solar and wind parks – remove not just land. The investments by international companies, as well as national and parastatal enterprises, also destroy the common-pool resources such as pasture, water, fisheries, wildlife and veld products, which are vital for local communities for food and cash.