Trade-offs between seascape and offshore wind farming values: An analysis of local opinions based on a cognitive belief framework


Title: Trade-offs between seascape and offshore wind farming values: An analysis of local opinions based on a cognitive belief framework
Authors: Gee, K.
Publication Date:
May 01, 2013
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Academic Department: Geosciences/Geography
Pages: 305
Publisher: Göttingen

Document Access

Website: External Link
Attachment: Access File
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Gee, K. (2013). Trade-offs between seascape and offshore wind farming values: An analysis of local opinions based on a cognitive belief framework. Doctoral Dissertation, Georg-August University of Göttingen.

This study explores the acceptance of offshore wind farming on the West coast of SchleswigHolstein in Germany. It is an explorative, qualitative study owing to the fact that no offshore wind farms have yet been constructed in the German North Sea, which means it assesses expectations associated with offshore wind farming rather than actual experiences. Based on a non-representative questionnaire survey of local residents in selected municipalities in Dithmarschen and North Frisia (n = 387), it shows that residents are equally divided between supporters and opponents. The study uses the concept of values to uncover the reasons behind these attitudes. It shows that attitudes to offshore wind farming are driven by (1) beliefs about offshore wind farming (including the values associated with offshore wind and the impacts it is believed to have on the local environment), and (2) the importance assigned to potentially conflicting values, in particular seascape values. Attitudes to offshore wind farming are the result of trade-offs between offshore wind farming values on the one hand and nature and seascape values on the other. A cognitive belief framework was constructed to assess the varying values and beliefs that lead to attitudes to offshore wind farming. It includes basic human beliefs as the first order of cognition, followed by beliefs about nature, the sea and the West coast before coming to attitude to offshore wind farming. The cognitive belief framework is used to trace the specific bifurcation points which are instrumental in forming an attitude to offshore wind farming. ‘Value types’ are established at different points of the cognitive belief framework indicative of different value constellations. The study particularly focuses on seascape values as a potential point of contention. In order to establish the range of values carried by the sea, the concept of landscape was applied to the specific setting of the North Sea. A new definition of ‘seascape’ was developed as a full equivalent of landscape, encompassing physical properties (forms), visual-aesthetic elements as well as the ‘sea of the mind’. The empirical part revealed that non-use values play a particular role in assigning value to the seascape, expressed for example in the visual aesthetic qualities of the seascape and the symbolic values assigned to it. Rather than abstract space, the sea is very much a place. Levels of attachment are high, and the sea yields a variety of intangible benefits to local residents. This is an aspect which has so far been neglected in offshore wind planning processes. Qualitative links were established between particular images of nature, nature ideologies and sea values. These in turn have links to West coast values and with these offshore wind farming values. Values associated with offshore wind farming and moral convictions (such as the belief that renewable energies are relevant and important) are key factors in tipping the balance in favour of offshore wind, even if nature and sea values are also considered important. Certain moral convictions and beliefs about the sea (such as the view that nature is fragile) are more likely to lead to a negative attitude to offshore wind farming. However, unless the underlying value base is very strong and consistent, support or rejection of offshore wind farming is always the result of a complex internal process driven by subjective rationalities. Since circumstances change, the results described in this study must be interpreted as a snapshot in time, reflecting a particular situation in the case study area and also the particular situation of each respondent at the time of questioning. Nevertheless, the cognitive belief framework presented and the overall approach can readily be transferred to other settings and contexts, enabling cross-cultural comparisons as well as assessment of changing opinions over time. The benefit of the approach is that it leads to better understanding of the positions taken up by stakeholders, facilitating process of negotiation and debate. 

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