Bringing Resilience into Changing Territories : Emerging risks management and territorial stakes in the South West region of France

This project aims at documenting the socio-territorial conditions at the centre of which resilience building takes shape in response to both weather-related and anthropogenic hazards in a global context of climate change and energy crisis. While the project conceptualises resilience as a reflexive process enabling the sustainability of social and institutional organisations to face inevitable changes, ACTER builds on the notion of territory as a way to identify contested sites of power through which interests collide over the use and meaning of the biophysical environment. In turn, this approach makes it possible to expose different senses of belonging to the biophysical environment whilst deterring stakes of identity building and relations to risk involved in shaping environmental governance. The focus on territory enables the project to highlight how resilient discourses and practices are spatialised and become intertwined in a wider set of political stakes at the centre of risk management.

Methodologically, the project builds on a broad range of qualitative methods to explore how and why resilience to extreme weather and technological changes are involved in reshaping territories and environmental politics more generally. Drawing on semi-structured interviews, ethnographic observations and policy document analysis, ACTER draws on two case studies exemplifying how resilience building has transformed territories and their governance: i) the extreme wind storms of 1999 and 2009, which are responsible for a large destruction the Landes and Gascogne region’s forests; ii) the reconversion of former natural gas wells into CO2 sequestration sites on the industrial area of Lacq in the Béarn. This fieldwork is also reinforced by the integration of a local actor committee ensuring the applicability of the project’s theoretical development and findings. While this local involvement aims at maintaining the practical dimensions of the project, this multiple viewpoint offers the opportunity to explore how the sustainability of territories could be achieved whilst maintaining social justice and equal access to the environment.

Finally, ACTER seeks to develop the heuristic dimension of resilience (and its contribution to the understanding of social organisation of risks in the face of a changing climate), which in turn provides means by which obstacles to environmental governance is understood at the territorial scale and could be better tackled in ways that promote the integration of multiple voices.

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