NCCU and UK Scholars Collaborate for Joint Workshop on Climate Change and Energy Issues
By: Kevin Lim
In conjunction with U.K.’s Dynamics of Energy Mobility and Demand (DEMAND) Centre, National Cheng Chi University held an all-day workshop featuring seminars on subjects ranging from energy rights to the gendered implications of green practices. Four scholars from the DEMAND Centre: Dr. Gordon Walker, Dr. Rosie Day, Dr. Allison Hui, and Dr. Neil Simcock, were invited to present their research along with NCCU’s Dr. Mei-Ling Hsu, Dr. Sumei Wang, Dr. Tung-jen Shih and Chinese Culture University’s Dr. Win-ping Kuo.
Dr. Gordon Walker commenced the workshop with a lively presentation on the “Right to Energy” and argued that energy should be deemed a universal human right along with other necessities such as food, housing and water. He notes energy should be affordable and should be available, regardless of demand. However, energy is fundamentally different from other rights and is a very ambiguous concept dependent through its contexts, leaving many more questions about the actual logistics of enforcing such a right.
Dr. Rosie Day presented next about “Fuel Poverty in the UK and Beyond.” Indoor heating is a necessity in the UK during the frigid winter months and many individuals such as the elderly are unable to pay their heating bills. In response to findings which show that deaths in the UK peak during the winter, the UK government as enacted and (modified) several policies which aim to identify and aid the fuel poor. Dr. Day plans to investigate the ways in which fuel poverty are presented in the media and also the costs and consequences of non-heating.
The next lecture was given by Dr. Neil Simcock who presented his findings media discourses regarding energy demand and policy. Gleaning data through a content-analysis study, Dr. Simcock identified three different recurring discourses in the five different UK newspapers which were sampled: 1) The needs of energy by the country and economy instead of the needs of individuals; 2) The need of energy as ordinary consumption by normal households; and 3) The need of energy as an essential service.
Next, Dr. Allison Hui spoke about the use and discourses of Electric Vehicles. She posited that like many things or objects, Electric Vehicles (EV’s) in the UK hold uncertain meanings, networks and practices and this can be a danger or a resource to social life. It is important to delineate the differences between electric vehicles from traditional gas vehicles, Dr. Hui says. If not, people will just focus on price. Her key points included concern about the adoption of electric vehicles and how EV’s relate to other appliances and technology.
Following after was “Green Practices are Gendered: An Investigation of Sustainable Consumption” by Dr. Sumei Wang. Having first provided the background of government policies regarding energy saving and carbon reduction, Dr. Wang proceeded to make the case that energy practices are gendered based on her text analysis research of Taiwanese newspapers. She found that 65% of reader submissions regarding environment protection, energy saving, and carbon reduction were female. Also through interviews, Dr. Wang determined that in most Taiwanese households the onus to save money and love the earth fell primarily on the mother/wife figure.
After the lunch break, Dr. Mei-Ling Hsu gave her presentation on media analysis of alternative and renewable energy coverage. Dr. Hsu’s study is ongoing but she was able to present some finding on her first two waves of research. Some notable findings include: In regards to news coverage of alternate power, nuclear energy was given the most attention and solar energy coverage was more popular in mainstream media than in alternative media. Regarding news framing, climate mitigation was seldom used in alternative media; safety and health frames were used the most for articles on nuclear power; and economic development frames were used the most for non-nuclear energy articles.
Chinese Culture University’s sole participant, Dr. Win-Ping Kuo, presented his findings on “Media Construction of Water Crisis in the Context of Climate Change.” In a preliminary content analysis study, Dr. Kuo has found a trending increase in the number of Taiwanese newspaper articles regarding water issues. He also noticed that the climate change issue has been “moralized,” with the bulk of the responsibility for water problems placed on the general public. Also, the water problem has been largely attributed to climate change in the media and the government has taken up the mission to solve this.
In the final presentation, Dr. Tung-Jen Shih presented his research study on the role of social media, specifically Facebook, in communicating science. In his first study, Dr. Shih analyzed the media content of PanSci, a Facebook page dedicated to sharing science information to its subscribers in a fun and informative way. Among other results, he found that 85% of posts contain texts and links, and that biology, physics and educational science are the most popular topics. Also, people were most likely to “like” a post, followed by sharing and commenting. In the second study, Dr. Shih studied PanSci subscribers particularly within uses and gratifications framework. Some findings included that most people used PanSci for informational gratification followed by identification gratification. It was also found that PanSci users were more involved in public activities such as lecture/exhibitions and donations than the general public.
In the final hour of the workshop, participants from both the DEMAND Centre and NCCU formulated a working plan for future cooperation. Discussed coops included study programs for Masters and PhD students such as a DEMAND summer school. Students between Taiwan and the UK could collaborate through online means such as video conferencing to share ideas as an online symposium or to communicate reports and research with each other as a means of cross-cultural comparison.
Students from both sides could also collaborate on producing short films which would contrast the differences between Taiwan and the UK regarding climate change or energy conservation and use. The videos would be featured online and could also be used as future teaching materials. There was also discussion about joint supervision of PhD students whose field of study included matters of energy need or energy poverty, with possibility for exchange programs.
Furthermore, cooperation on interdisciplinary conferences regarding climate change were mentioned. One such conference, 4 Sights and Technology Studies International Conference, is scheduled for April 2016 and could feature a pre-conference postgraduate event with panels focused on communication and risk. The workshop ended on a bright note as both the DEMAND Centre and NCCU were pleased to have worked out a roadmap for future cooperation regarding research on energy and global warming.