Exploring Energy and Democracy
Alev Sorman comes from the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (ICTA) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Now she joins the Energy Justice theme as one of two guest researchers.
What is your background?
I have a background in environmental engineering - however, I opened up my studies to interdisciplinary perspectives more than a decade ago when I did my masters here in Lund. I did the International Masters Programme in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science (LUMES). I did my PhD at the Environmental Sciences and Technology (ICTA) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and worked as a postdoctoral researcher there for five years.
My next stop after my stay here at the Pufendorf Institute will be the Basque Center for Climate Change – BC3 in Bilbao where I will continue my research.
Why are you involved in the theme Energy Justice?
Societies have achieved their current levels of complexity only through the abundance and readily available surpluses of fossil energy. However, this has come at great expense. The benefits and burdens of the consumption of such energy resources have not been distributed equally across the globe.
So now, we are pressed from both sides. Not only are we facing a global crisis, both in terms of production in biophysical terms (where the maximum rate of crude oil extraction has been reached i.e. peaking fossil fuels) and in terms of environmental impacts that can no longer be tolerated; we have come to the point where ethical dilemmas and social impacts need to urgently be addressed. Hence my great interest in participating in the Energy Justice theme.
What do you hope to contribute?
My aim is to contribute to current debates on changing energy frontiers. In my research until now, I’ve investigated questions such as energy from where, in which form, for which socioeconomic sector and for what kind of development? Currently, with the energy justice theme at the Pufendorf Institute, I hope to complete the bigger picture and look into questions such as energy for whom and at whose cost? Hopefully, by doing so, we can all get a better understanding on how to address injustices as well.
What do you hope to get out of your stay?
The environment here is stimulating, and with my colleagues, I hope to create a dialogue, finding common points of interest upon which we can act to address several issues on the forefront debate of energy (in)justice. I wish to exchange, share and co-create knowledge in deliberating over alternatives to the current system that is unsustainable in so many ways.
What are your research interests?
This energy transformation we talk about, means a long-term structural change in energy systems and a significant change in energy policy. So my research tries to combine feasibility and viability of such transition scenarios while considering how to achieve this. For example, a great opening is discussing energy democracy. By this we mean decentralisation of energy systems through renewables that are abundant and evenly distributed, as opposed to fossil fuels that are geopolitically centered and mounted upon strategic interests managed by the few. This also means opening an option space for strengthening community bonds through empowering local ownership and decision-making initiatives. Similarly, when we generate electricity closer to where we use it, from a variety of different sources, we will be more conscious of what it entails (e.g. the electricity simply doesn’t just come out of the socket), hopefully implying reductions in our consumption patterns as well.
What drives you?
Creating new visions for change on this quest for seeking alternative (energy) futures. As typical as it may sound, Albert Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We are currently facing an urgency of having to transform our societies, and this has to take place through deliberation, reaching out to everyone in an ethical way and co-constructing a new democratic decision-making system. I think this also requires an internal journey of asking ourselves some uncomfortable questions like what we are ready to give up on to assist in this process. I believe that we have the power to shift things, and unlike the fossil fuels that are at their brink of exhaustion, there is never too much of empathy for justice and in the words of Charles Eisenstein “… what we need is a revolution of love.”
What are you working on right now?
There are lots of exciting projects going on here. We are trying to develop an energy justice dictionary that consists of basic definitions and roadmaps to address such challenges. We are working on research papers through the contribution of colleagues from many different disciplines. We are organising a final dissemination seminar in May 2017, to share some of the experiences of the team on Energy Justice coinciding with the Sustainability Week events within Lund University’s 350th year anniversary activities.
Have you ever been to Lund and/or Sweden?
Yes, I lived here between 2005 -2007 and it’s lovely being back. Kind of like a walk down memory lane. Lund has not changed much since, but it’s a perfect time and ambiance to reflect back on how much I have personally evolved over the years and to see how I have contributed to this societal change I hope to see.