The nexus: reconsidering environmental security and adaptive capacity

R. de Grenade, L. House-Peters, C. A. Scott, B. Thapa, M. Mills-Novoa, A. Gerlak, K. Verbist

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The water–energy–food nexus has emerged as a productive discourse and methodology in academic research, science-policy dialogues, and development agendas. While the nexus provides a robust framework for interdisciplinary study, research remains focused on synergies and tradeoffs in resource ‘security’ and fails to adequately acknowledge the environment as the set of natural processes underpinning the nexus, particularly interactions among water, energy, and food. Resource security as a reductionist discourse does not address the limitations and potential of natural processes and the dynamic nature of human processes, especially adaptation to global change. A review of recent literature highlights the need to redefine the nexus to fundamentally incorporate the environment, and, drawing on social–ecological systems thinking, to integrate considerations of adaptive capacity and resilience within nexus theory and practice. Future directions for this line of inquiry include identifying feasible ways of assessing the nexus in the context of dynamic social and ecological systems, and implications that adaptive actions have across resource-use sectors and the environment. A more holistic nexus framework enhances our options to manage environmental interactions, human activities, and policies to adapt to global-change uncertainties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-21
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Social Sciences


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