Sustainability Science

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 599–616 | Cite as

Environmental justice and the expanding geography of wind power conflicts

  • Sofia Avila
Special Feature: Original Article The EJAtlas: Ecological Distribution Conflicts as Forces for Sustainability
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: The EJAtlas: Ecological Distribution Conflicts as Forces for Sustainability


Wind power is expanding globally. Simultaneously, a growing number of conflicts against large-scale wind farms are emerging in multiple locations around the world. As these processes occur, new questions arise on how electricity from wind is being generated, how such energy is flowing within societies, and how these production-flows are being shaped by specific power structures. The present paper explores the expanding geography of wind energy conflicts by analyzing 20 case studies from across the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. Based on the Environmental Justice Atlas database, it reflects on how land pressures and patterns of uneven development emerge as two features of the current expansion of wind farms. Following a relational analysis, these patterns are examined to interpret the plural instances of opposition emerging throughout the rural spaces of the world. The article argues that previously unexplored forms of collective action are expanding the scope and content of the “wind energy debate”. In addition to the claims of “landscape” and “wildlife protection” addressed by the existing literature, this study sheds light on the rural/peripheral contexts where opposition emerges through the defense of indigenous territories, local livelihoods and communal development projects. The study contends that these “emerging storylines” embrace an environmental justice perspective when challenging the socially unequal and geographically uneven patterns reproduced by the ecological modernization paradigm. From this lens, cases of local opposition are not interpreted as selfish forces blocking a low-carbon transition, but instead, are understood as political instances that enable a wider discussion about the ways such transition should take place.


Wind energy Land pressures Uneven development Ecological modernization Conservationism Environmental justice. 



The author is financially supported by CONACYT-Postgraduate Research Grant. This article was developed within the ENVJUSTICE Project (European Research Council/No 695446). Thanks to the editors of the Special Feature: “The EJAtlas: Ecological Distribution Conflicts as Forces for Sustainability”. Thanks to Joan Martínez-Alier, Leah Temper, Alevgul Sorman, Gonzalo Gamboa and Lewis King for supporting the writing process. Special thanks to the two anonymous reviewers who engaged with the manuscript providing valuable insights. Any error remains on the author.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA)Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB)BarcelonaSpain

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