Editorial: A look behind the screen

Sandra G.F. Bukkens

During the past three years, MAGIC has critically examined prevailing narratives and proposed innovations in EU policy spheres involving one or more elements of the resource nexus: water, energy, food and the environment. To this end, MAGIC researchers have employed quantitative story-telling, a novel approach that involves a predominantly quantitative exploration of multiple narratives in a given policy domain. Rather than trying to compile evidence in support of a given narrative, or determine the ‘best course of action’, researchers explored whether or not the examined narratives were congruent with quantitative analytical checks.  Previous issues of the Nexus Times have focused on the outcomes and policy relevance of this research. In this issue, we take a look behind the screen and show how these quantitative analytical checks are obtained in what we call the MAGIC ‘Nexus Structuring Space’.

In our first article, Mario Giampietro briefly explains the challenges involved in a quantitative analysis of the resource nexus and sets out how these challenges have been overcome in MAGIC’s Nexus Structuring Space. He does so by drawing an analogy with Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map.

Ansel Renner and Juan Cadillo-Benalcazar then illustrate how the nexus structuring space has been used to characterize the current EU’s food system and to assess the changes that would be required to achieve self-sufficiency in food.

In our third article, Louisa Di Felice describes the energy sector as a multi-scale network to answer questions such as: which functions of the energy sector emit most greenhouse gases? What would happen to the nexus elements across scales if the energy sector were to be electrified?

Laura Pérez-Sánchez, Raúl Velasco-Fernandez, Michele Manfroni, Sandra Bukkens and Mario Giampietro’s article focuses on the key role of time use in MuSIASEM and explains how the use of labour is intricately linked with the natural resource nexus in the societal metabolic pattern.          

Our last article, by Maddalena Ripa, focuses on a particularly ‘wicked’ case study in MAGIC, that of biofuels. It shows how the nexus structuring space and quantitative story-telling have been used to debunk the idea that biofuels represent a sustainable use of biomass to produce liquid fuels and a way out of a nexus policy impasse.