Lightning rods, earthquakes, and regional identities: towards a multi-scale framework of assessing fracking risk perception
Hydraulic fracturing has provided a persistent, polarizing, and highly politicized source of controversy internationally, and in numerous national contexts for just under a decade. This research uses fracking operations in New Zealand as a vignette through which to understand the underlying causes of controversy and the appropriateness of attempts to address them. A multi-method approach using interviews (n=25), diagrammatic analysis, and newsprint media was applied to evidence two major findings. Firstly, previous attempts to explain fracking controversy based on social constructivist theory lack a multi-scalar approach to the assessment of factors that influence risk perceptions. It is found that risk perception surrounding fracking in New Zealand reflects intra-scalar interactions between factors originating at the international, national, regional and local scale. Secondly, there is a concerning absence of critique pertaining to the concept of ‘social license to operate’ (SLO), which has been advocated both internationally and nationally as an appropriate form of stakeholder engagement. This paper contributes to the SLO outcomes literature by establishing a need to consider multi-scalar influences on risk perception when explaining diverse SLO outcomes in communities where fracking operations are prospective or already taking place.
NERC (via Cranfield University) (NE/M009009/1)