Steven Harry

Thesis title:

Island Metabolisms and the Contested Geographies of Energy Transition: A Relational Comparison


Climate change has moved energy-society relations centre stage. Socio-political struggles are finding new expression in the geographies of carbon lock-in, the geographies of (renewable) energy transition, and the geo-spatialities of alternative energy futures; these struggles are themselves shaped by the materiality of socio-energy systems.

Islands have become emblematic figures in the Anthropocene. The dynamics of energy development and change on islands, embedded within complex multi-relational systems, highlights particularly well the ways in which energy transitions more generally are shaped by their spatial and material context, the need to develop frameworks that account for geographical specificity, and the ways both material location and spatial form capture shifts in the operation and contestation of power.

As the energy transition unfolds under the dictates of fossil capital, and many peripheral places such as islands become both ‘sustainable-development laboratories’ and sites of energy extraction and struggle, how are class relations and conflicts over the appropriation of energy surpluses (re)surfacing and being (re)interpreted and (re)expressed in this moment? How can we trace and position struggles over island time–space, land and resources into broader contexts of historical global capitalist relations? The project focuses on renewable energy transitions in the European island-archipelago/peninsula regions of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, the Fosen peninsula in Norway and the Balearic Islands in Spain.

Drawing on eco-Marxist theories of metabolism, Steve uses a ‘relational comparison’ framework, which focuses on spatio-historical specifications, interconnections and mutually constitutive processes, and roots this in a dialectical and historical-geographical materialist understanding of energy systems. He draws on desk-based exploratory research, interviewing, and critical ethnographic techniques.

First supervisor:

Alex Loftus


9 – Political Ecology, Energy & Environmental Health




Harry, S.J. & Morad, M. 2013, “Sustainable development and climate change: Beyond mitigation and adaptation”, Local Economy, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 358-368