Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Tragedy of the Commons

The Tragedy of the Commons argument is that shared resources tend inevitably to be overused and ruined. This video explains the Tragedy argument and some of its flaws.

Looking for research ideas? The ERC Funded Projects might be inspiring

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Funding opportunities: “ERC step by step”

Seenkompass Leipzig: a macro conversion from open-pit mines to lakes

A total of 42 new lakes will be created by flooding closed open-pit mines and will create a seascape with about 174 km² water surface, especially in the south of Leipzig. The landscape change will have a very significant socieconomic impact on the region. Major economic and leisure development, as well as improvement of quality of life is expected. This macro project is part of the structural change in the region around Leipzig and Halle. (See the animated infography following the pin)

See bellow the original description in Germany: Die Bergbaufolgelandschaft des mitteldeutschen Braunkohlereviers ist mit ca. 500 km² wiedernutzbar zu machender Fläche die drittgrößte Deutschlands. Mit der Rekultivierung der stillgelegten Tagebaue vollzieht sich hier seit 1990 ein eindrucksvoller Wandel hin zu einer Seenlandschaft mit vielfältigen Erholungsmöglichkeiten. Gewinnen Sie einen Überblick über die Entwicklung der Seenlandschaft, indem Sie Zeitsprünge des Flutungsstandes auswählen Erkunden Sie Details zu einzelnen Gewässern, indem Sie auf einen See in der Karte klicken oder in das Textfeld eingeben.

Why and where early retirees move? A post-mining town case study (my abstract for the next European Sociological Association conference in Prague)

Problem and research question Mining industries have played a crucial part in the European history. Starting in the 19th century, the extraction of coal and lignite provided the basis for the industrialization of many European regions (Wirth et al, 2012). Due to exhaustion of resources or technical and market conditions changes, mining industry has been retreating since 1960s in central Europe and since 1990s in Eastern and Southern Europe. In the particular case of Spain and according to a mining institution attached to the Ministry of Industry, in 2012 there were 79 mining municipalities “very affected” by mining restructuring. In order to avoid the “socioeconomic drama” (Baeten et al, 1999) that usually accompanied this process, these municipalities have been benefited from revitalization policies from public institutions, such as early retirement plans, employment incentives and grants to attract investors, among other measures. This papers aims to explore the patterns of residential mobility among early retirees mining workers in one of these Spanish regions. Specifically, the municipality of As Pontes de García Rodríguez, located in the Autonomous Community of Galicia. There, the largest opencast coalmine in Spain and its power plant was located. Its construction and operation as of 1979 and the associated influx of newcomers workers would definitely change a place that by that time was not far from many others villages that form the most genuine rural Galicia. In hardly two decades, this boom scenario will soon give way to a deep shrinkage process. The closure of the adjacent opencast coalmine, its conversion into an artificial lake, as well as the massive early retirement plan implemented in the last decades, finally defined its particular idiosyncrasies up to date. The mining industry workforce was nearly 2,000 employees in 1998. It is estimated that the early retirement plan implemented between 1998 and 2012 meant the withdrawal from the labour market of around 1.855 employees between 47 and 64 years old. How many and where early retirees moved? What variables better explain such decision? This paper aims to answer these questions, while also reflecting about revitalization policies in European post-mining regions. Methodology A self-administrated postal questionnaire survey has been conducted. The relatively high response rate (18%) has allowed obtaining a representative sample of 327 cases to be analysed by mean statistic software. With a confidence interval of 95% and p=q=50% (hypothesis of the maximum possible variation), the maximum sample error is ± 4.9% (assuming the number of early-retirees [1855] as the total population. The questionnaire includes opinion (perception of the social integration in the mining community during their time as employees, Retirement Satisfaction Inventory variables (F. J. Floyd et al, 1992), among others), behavioural (social capital related questions, medical treatment for anxiety, current municipality of residence and others) and attribute variable (birthplace and origin related questions and other socio-demographic variables). Different statistical association test according to variable nature (mainly Chi square, Cramer´s V and regression coefficient) were applied in order to identify statistically significant relationships between the different variables. Results Approximately 75% of respondents had resided in the town of As Pontes during most of the time they were employed at the mine, 10% would had done it only at specific times and 14% never, i.e., their place of residence was other than the workplace. Of those who resided most of the time in As Pontes, 28% decided to emigrate after retirement. This decision does not appear to have any statistically significant relationship with most of the variables. Only two variables seem to be associated. First and foremost, the origin. The percentage of former employees who decided to emigrate after retiring is much higher among newcomers from other municipalities, and above all, among those coming from outside the Autonomous Community of Galicia. Here the percentage increases to 48%, against the 12% of natives residents.  However, the destination is not precisely the place of origin. In most of the cases, the respondents reside in a third place within Autonomous Community of Galicia. Thus, 55% do it in nearby urban or coastal areas, especially the city of A Coruña and its metropolitan area. And this is even clearer among those coming from other Autonomous Communities. On the other hand, there is a striking moderate but significant association between the residence and such variable as being or having been under anxiety or depression medical treatment. It is more likely among people who no longer reside in As Pontes. Specifically, 22% of those who have left As Pontes were under treatment in comparison to 10% of the total sample and the 15% of the total Spanish population, according to experts. Conclusions Despite no problem of social integration was identified during the time living in the mining community, evidence suggests that the lower attachment to the community explain the higher tendency to emigrate after retirement among newcomers miners. The fact that the main destination was not the place of origin but a third place suggests that the decision making process may be based on such factors as perception of more urban areas as provider of greater standard of living and services availability. This fact, however, could explain greater problems in the post-retirement adaptation process, judging by the worse health status identified among those who left the community.  The improvement of local services, and especially for retired population, must be seen as an important factor of economic revitalization in post mining regions. The capacity to keep and even attract retirees with usually high level of purchase may reactivate the local economy; especially when other revitalization measures such as tax breaking and grants to attract investors does not seem to be giving the expected results.

“Local Social perception of a mining artificial lake in Spain” my abstract for the next European Sociological Association conference in Prague

The construction of a large scale power plant in the town of As Pontes in the late seventies and the associated influx of new workers would definitely change a place that by that time was not far from many others villages that form the most genuine rural Galicia. The closure of the adjacent opencast coalmine in recent years and its conversion into an artificial lake finally defined its particular idiosyncrasies up to date. By mean a mixed methods analysis (in-depth interviews, focus group and observation), this paper aims to study the social perception of the new artificial lake among locals, while also looking at the more theoretical questions about interdependencies between natural, social and built environment. Specifically, this paper is an opportunity to build upon the legacy of the American sociologist William Freudenburg and his concept of Opportunity-threat. Results accounts for the existence of two divergent social constructions that could be associated to an old social category and identity strategies among neighbours: long term residents and newcomers. First and most dominant, a perception of the lake as both a new symbol of the town due to its grandiosity and as an opportunity for an industrial development associated to water that could bring a new boom. On the other hand, a more sceptical perception among long term residents who not only distrust about the security of the lake itself but also see a menace to the social centrality of other historical symbols of the town, as the river or the town square.

See this video to know closely the reconversion process from mine to lake in As Pontes. In Spanish, though.


The Governance Of Energy Megaprojects

‘Benjamin Sovacool and Christopher Jon Cooper have produced an astonishing and well-written book, based on extensive original research in twelve countries. They explore the technical, social, political and economic dimensions of four energy megaprojects. The large scale of megaprojects always appears to complicate the decision-making process and often causes failures. Megaprojects may even reinforce corruption and erode democracy. It highlights that today’s experiences can be explained by statements by Aristotle and Einstein who argue, both in their own way, that is always wise to take the limits of size into account and to reduce the size of projects, wherever this is possible. For everybody involved in megaprojects, this book must be read!’
– Hugo Priemus, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands


Based on extensive original research, this book explores the technical, social, political, and economic dimensions of four Asian energy megaprojects: a regional natural gas pipeline network in Southeast Asia, a series of hydroelectric dams on the island of Borneo, an oil pipeline linking Europe with the Caspian Sea, and a very large solar energy array in the Gobi desert.

This book investigates why energy megaprojects fail to deliver their promised benefits. It offers the first comprehensive assessment of the complicated dynamics driving – and constraining – megaprojects initiated in the rapid scramble for energy resources and efforts to improve energy security. The authors approach the assessment of megaprojects from a socio-technical angle, emphasizing broad issues of political leadership, regulation, financing, interest group opposition and environmental impact, as well as conventional technological factors such as engineering design and project management.

The Governance of Energy Megaprojects will prove insightful for academics concerned about energy policy, energy security, environmental impact and technology assessment. But the book should prove equally compelling to those engaged in the practical management and implementation of large-scale energy projects anywhere in the world.

[Video lecture] Post industrial Dynamics and Urban Housing by Hugo Priemus

Greenfield vs Brownfield Sites

An obsession – brutal, beautiful bus stop design of the former Soviet states