Mark Harvey introduces his article ‘The Food-Energy-Climate Change Trilemma: Toward a Socio-Economic Analysis‘ from the TCS Special Issue on Energy & Society, edited by David Tyfield & John Urry
Theory, Culture & Society, September 2014; vol. 31, 5: pp. 155-182., first published on June 27, 2014
The food-energy-climate change trilemma refers to the stark alternatives presented by the need to feed a world population growing to nine billion, the attendant risks of land conversion and use for global climate change, and the way these are interconnected with the energy crisis arising from the depletion of oil. Theorizing the interactions between political economies and their related natural environments, in terms of both finitudes of resources and generation of greenhouse gases, presents a major challenge to social sciences. Approaches from classical political economy, transition theory, economic geography, and political ecology, are reviewed before elaborating the neo-Polanyian approach adopted here. The case of Brazil, analysed with an `instituted economic process’ framework, demonstrates how the trilemma is a spatial and historical socio-economic phenomenon, varying significantly in its dynamics in different environmental and resource contexts. The paper concludes by highlighting challenges to developing a social scientific theory in this field.
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