Anatomy of a buzzword: the emergence of ‘the water-energy-food nexus’ in UK natural resource debates

Cairns, Rose and Krzywoszynska, Anna (2016) Anatomy of a buzzword: the emergence of ‘the water-energy-food nexus’ in UK natural resource debates. Environmental Science and Policy, 64. pp. 164-170. ISSN 1462-9011

[img] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial No Derivatives.

Download (602kB)


The existence of a water-energy-food ‘nexus’ has been gaining significant attention in international natural resource policy debates in recent years. We argue the term ‘nexus’ can be currently seen as a buzzword: a term whose power derives from a combination of ambiguous meaning and strong normative resonance. We explore the ways in which the nexus terminology is emerging and being mobilised by different stakeholders in natural resource debates in the UK context. We suggest that in the UK the mobilisation of the nexus terminology can best be understood as symptomatic of broader global science-policy trends, including an increasing emphasis on integration as an ideal; an emphasis on technical solutions to environmental problems; achievement of efficiency gains and ‘win-wins’; and a preference for technocratic forms of environmental managerialism. We identify and critique an ‘integrative imaginary’ underpinning much of the UK discourse around the concept of the nexus, and argue that attending to questions of power is a crucial but often underplayed aspect of proposed integration. We argue that while current efforts to institutionalise the language of the nexus as a
conceptual framework for research in the UK may provide a welcome opportunity for new forms of transdisciplinary, they may risk turning nexus into a ‘matter of fact’ where it should remain a ‘matter of concern’. In this vein, we indicate the importance of critique to the development of nexus research.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Nexus, Interdisciplinarity
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Research Centres and Groups: The Sussex Energy Group
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences > GE170 Environmental policy
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences > GE300 Environmental management
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Depositing User: Rose Cairns
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2016 13:29
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 19:03

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update
Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Planetary Connections: ESRC Social Science of the Nexus Network PlusG1334ESRC-ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCILES/L01632X/1