Benign or industrial?

For some supporters, the Wave Hub and the wave energy devices to be installed fit seamlessly with images of nature and stewardship. Using nature to solve an environmental problem has a certain ‘fit’, and the term ‘benign’ is often used in describing wave energy devices (e. g. Pelamis Wave Power, 2007). For Surfers Against Sewage, the development is seen to ‘fit’ with surfing, as the same waves are used to light ‘our’ homes and for surfing. There is no new intrusion in this analysis, just an extension of what is already, harmoniously, occurring. Alternatively, the development can be seen as an industrial installation. This symbolic image is created by drawing on industrial terms, such as pistons and pumps, or referring simply to the development as a power station. These terms work to strip the development of its ‘green’ credentials, associating it instead with a more traditional ‘dirty’ industrial power station image (as in the quote below):

‘The proposed power station, to become operational in 2008, will involve

anchoring 20 sets of turbines, pistons and pumps’ (Booth, 2006).

These different symbolic interpretations indicate that the environmental creden­tials of a technology are rarely universally accepted. Understanding how respondents are assessing claims to ‘greenness’ and how trade-offs with other social and environmental goals are made is important in understanding how the desirability of this and other projects are assessed.

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