Interview to María José Prados
“Regulations on landscape management and, particularly, on quality landscapes, are still pending in the national and regional legislative agendas”
We continue with the 2020 editorial line about climate challenges. This month of June we are going to talk about a social challenge: the acceptation of the impact of renewable energy in the landscape. The Geography Professor and expert in renewable energy landscapes, María-José Prados, has discussed this challenge with us.
What does the expression Not in my backyard mean and what is its origin?
Not in my backyard is an idiom linked to the rejection that part of the population has against renewable energy installations. It is usually found in scientific papers that analyse the impact of wind farms and the popular opposition to them due to the noise, flashing lights, visual barriers, bird strikes, etc.
Paradoxically, those involved are not against green energy and usually declare themselves environmentalists, but they reject the impact of these installations.
I think that this expression comes from the Cold War. The USA got involved in internal political issues in South American and Caribbean countries −for example, in Cuba and Chile− because they wanted to control what happened in their backyard: from the Mexican border down South.
It is widely known by most of the public opinion that renewables are a key factor for the energy transition, so they will be present in our future landscapes, to what extent do you think it will be a global challenge?
To the extent that it is a feasible solution against the shortage, instability, and high prices of fossil fuels. Also, some renewable resources are ubiquitous and thanks to technological advances, they have been optimized. Moreover, it is a clean solution and it is believed it will be affordable for everyone.
From a geographical point of view, how can we minimise the impact of renewable energies in the landscapes to help society accept them?
By using social innovation tools and encouraging social participation in planning processes of renewable energy projects. So, renewable energy landscapes become the result of a negotiated solution. Negotiations to decide the location and the details of the installation are basic to minimise possible impacts.
Could you compare the present Spanish regulations on renewables and their impact in landscapes to the ones of other neighbour countries?
Spain has closely followed the European Union’s dictates on renewable energy development, even though the scope of the regulations was seriously affected by the 2008 financial crisis and some parliament majorities. Although companies and other actors were on the same wavelength as the EU path, some legislative decisions held the development of renewable energies back. A decade later, the process has been reverted and we can say that Spain is on the right path to achieve both, the implication of the politics and society. Just to name a close example, we are moving forward in parallel to countries such as Portugal.
Regarding their impact in the landscape, we must admit that the situation is different. Regulations on landscape management and, particularly, on quality landscapes, are still pending in the national and regional legislative agendas. However, the situation does not stop scientists to do research into the reasons for this regulatory lethargy and into the relationship of these new landscapes with the population.
Barral Muñoz A., Prados Velasco, M. J. y Hurtado Rodríguez C. (2020): Evolución de la erosión estimada USLE y procesos de naturbanización en el entorno de los parques nacionales de Doñana y Sierra Nevada (España). Cuadernos Geográficos nº 59 – 1, pp. 196 – 223.
del Valle Ramos C. y Prados Velasco M. J. (2019): Población y poblamiento en los Parques Nacionales andaluces. El valor del entorno residencial como detonante de los procesos de naturbanización. Investigaciones Geográficas nº 71, pp. 9 – 25.
Polling B., Prados M.J., Torquati B.M., Giacche G., Recasens X., Paffarini C. & Alfranca O (2017): Business models in urban farming: A comparative analysis of case studies from Spain, Italy and Germany. Moravian Geographical Reports nº 25, pp. 166 – 180.
Marot N. y Prados M. J. (2017): Los Paisajes de las Energías Renovables ¿una nueva realidad?. Boletín de la Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles nº 75, pp. 709 – 714.
Fernández M., Prados M.J. y Lourenço J. (2016): Assessment of National Parks affected by Naturbanization Processes in Southern Europe. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.
Pallarès-Blanch M., Prados M.J. & Tulla A. F. (2014): Naturbanization and urban-rural dynamics in Spain: case study of new rural landscapes in Andalusia and Catalonia. European Countryside 6, pp. 118 – 160.
Frolova M., Espejo C., Baraja E., Prados M. J. (2014): Paisajes emergentes de las energías renovables en España. Boletín de la Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles nº 66, pp. 223 – 252.
María José Prados
María José Prados is a Geography Professor at the University of Seville. Throughout her career she has collaborated with FAO, CONACYT and CONICYT (the National Science Foundation of Mexico and Chile), AECID (the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation) and REA (the Research European Agency).