Applying the Capability Approach of Nussbaum and Sen to conceptualising and tackling energy poverty

ERI 149
Wednesday 11 December 2019 (15:15-17:00)
Contact (Wouter Peeters)

  • Rosie Day (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham)


Consumption of energy is embedded in everyday life, and energy deprivation, generally termed fuel poverty or energy poverty, can be connected to a range of adverse outcomes. Definitions of energy poverty however are disparate, lack theoretical coherence, and frame interventions in particular ways. In this talk I will argue for the merits of conceptualising energy poverty through the Capabilities Approach of Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum and others. Not only can this provide a theoretically coherent means of comprehending the relationship between energy and wellbeing - and thus conceptualising energy deprivation - that can be applied across geographical contexts, but it can direct practical interventions in more helpful ways, whilst also helping with the problem of contextualising energy justice in climate justice. I will also discuss a practical application of Capabilities informed thinking to an energy development project, by drawing on recent work in rural Mexico.

Rosie Day is an environmental human geographer interested in various aspects of peoples experience of, and engagement with, the wider environment. Much of her work has been in the area of environmental inequalities and environmental justice where she has developed a particular theme on ageing and environmental issues. She is currently largely focused on research to do with energy demand, especially issues of energy poverty and energy justice. Her style of working is highly multi-disciplinary, and she works in teams with academics from engineering, history, transport studies, architecture and sociology, from the UK and beyond.

This seminar is part of the 2019-20 Global Ethics Tea Seminar Series hosted by the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics.

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