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The Annual International Conference 2016 will be chaired by Professor Peter Jackson (University of Sheffield)

Nexus thinking

The theme for the 2016 Annual Conference is nexus thinking, an approach that has attracted a surge of interest in the last five years among academics, policy-makers and third sector organizations.  The aim of nexus thinking is to address the interdependencies, tensions and trade-offs between different environmental and social domains – an approach to which geographers might feel an inherent attraction.  Rather than seeing energy, food and water resources as separate systems, for example, nexus thinking focuses on their interconnections, favouring an integrated approach that moves beyond national, sectoral, policy and disciplinary silos to identify more efficient, equitable and sustainable use of scarce resources.

The current interest in nexus thinking originated in an influential 2011 report from the World Economic Forum which described water security as the gossamer that links together the web of food, energy, climate, economic growth and human security challenges.  The concept gained further currency in the run-up to the Rio+20 Summit in 2012 and it is currently the focus of the ESRC’s Nexus Network initiative.  Former RGS-IBG President, Professor Judith Rees, also wrote about the value of geographical ideas and methods in addressing current nexus challenges in her 2013 presidential address. 

The 2016 annual conference offers an opportunity to take these ideas forward both in the specific context of research on water, energy and food security but also, more widely, by demonstrating the power of geographical thinking to work across disciplinary boundaries, to think relationally and to make connections across time and space.  The conference encourages debate about these issues, including what nexus thinking might add to existing approaches and what its potential might be as a metaphor or method.

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