Coastal areas, despite only occupying a relatively small percentage of the Earth’s land-surface, provide more than one third of the globe’s value of ecosystem services. Coastal areas are also increasingly at risk due to changing environmental conditions as well as human development pressures. These factors, coupled with the large-scale failure of contemporary governance approaches to direct development to more sustainable outcomes, present stark challenges for coastal stakeholders. Nowhere is this clearer than in contested coastal zones, where intense demand on coastal resources sits uneasily with stewardship, habitat protection and natural resource maintenance imperatives. Coastal zones represent a frontline in the battle for sustainability, as coastal communities face unprecedented economic challenges while coastal ecosystems are subject to overuse, loss of resilience and increased vulnerability.
In is the aim of this research network to interrogate sustainability challenges in the coastal zone from the perspective of the emerging field of socio-technical transitions (SST) research. While studies of socio-technical transitions frequently consider local contexts, the spatial dimension in general has been poorly elaborated in STT research. Much contemporary discussion of transition is either a-spatial or based on implicit assumptions about spatial homogeneity, with comparatively little attention to how policy proposals might work in an unevenly developed world.
The Regional Studies Association Research Network on Sustainability Transitions in the Coastal Zone aims to address these limitations through an examination of socio technological transitions with an explicitly spatial focus in the context of the coastal zone. Four meetings are planned, which will seek to initiate and foster debate, insight and critical thinking in this space in an incremental and step-wise manner.
Workshop 1 (2017): Review of Coastal Issues and the Conceptual Basis for Transitions
January 19th-21st 2017, University Centre of the Westfjords, Ísafjörður, Iceland
This first meeting of the RSA network on Coastal Transitions aimed to establish the ‘boundaries’ and potentials of the research network, identifying those aspects of critical importance to further academic and practitioner insight. Spatial understandings of transitions processes, largely neglected by the academic community to date, were front and centre to discussions. The workshop was attended by a small invited group.
Workshop 2 (2017): Food-Energy-Transportation Systems Transitions
September 7th–9th, 2017, Liverpool, UK
This workshop had a focus on uneven development processes and spatially and socio-spatially differentiated impacts of current trends of dynamic change and transition.
Workshop 3 (2018): Governance and Sustainability Citizenship in the Coastal Zone
September 13th-15th, Skálanes, Iceland
Coastal zones represent a frontline in the battle for sustainability, as coastal communities face unprecedented economic challenges while coastal ecosystems are subject to overuse, loss of resilience and increased vulnerability. The move from top-down governance to a networked, co-owned model of governance will be explored for international coastal case-studies, with a view to developing understandings of best practice for coastal sustainability governance. Conceptualisations of coastal stakeholders as sustainability citizens, rather than resource consumers will inform the framing of contributions.
Workshop 4 (2019): Activating Real Coastal Transitions
April 12th-16th, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland (TBC)
Applying the transitions concepts of regime transformation and niche-innovation, ‘the case for change’ will be made, seeking to synthesise outcomes from all 4 workshops and identify transformation pathways for coastal regions. A regionally informed understanding of place and space will direct debate to consider problems of uneven transition, and risks of ‘negative transitions’, whereby existing contours of uneven development are exacerbated by transition initiatives. The research network aims to bring together scholars focused on—or interested in— the dynamics of coastal zones as economic spaces in order to catalyse a discourse on new coastal economies, addressing problems of lock-in and system inertia in the current regime and exploring means to foster radical innovation for sustainable and resilience based coastal development all while making sure the spatial dimension and the regional context are fully conceptualised.