The role of science and knowledge production is at a crossroads, as societal transformation calls for challenging dominant forms of knowledge production that have contributed to marginalizing other ways of knowing. This presents a challenge to mainstream science and invites a deeper reflection on our roles as scientists and exploration of alternative engaged, post-normal and activist approaches to research. This paper examines the diverse ways researchers are meeting this challenge. Employing the device of the Tarot deck we describe seven "char-acters" to illustrate the variety of roles and approaches that trans-disciplinary, transformative, transgressive and activist researchers are engaging in. These characters are used to introduce and develop the concept of political rigour as a means of expanded academic rigour in new emancipatory scientific paradigms. We demonstrate how these Tarot characters can be used as an activity for collective and personal reflexivity and propose ten principles that frequently emerge in a 'political' peer review process. We argue that the insights emerging from these strands of radical, critical, engaged and applied forms of scholarship, can significantly improve the understanding of what a "transformative knowledge paradigm" may look like in practice and how it can be mobilized for social change and environmental justice.
El presente libro recoge aportes teóricos - conceptuales, reﬂexiones y análisis de personas comprometidas con la transformación de conﬂictos socioambientales. Estas personas fueron reunidas por el Instituto de Investigación Cientíﬁca y Social de la Universidad Núr, en el marco del desarrollo de una línea de investigación que surge de la imperiosa necesidad de abrir caminos a la búsqueda de mecanismos para la transformación de los conﬂictos socioambientales. Se trata de una nueva cara de la administración de justicia ambiental que pretende ir más allá de la fórmula jurídica escueta, pero en ningún caso contra ella.
Across the globe, conservation policies have often suppressed nonscientific forms of knowledge and ways of knowing nature, along with the social practices of the groups that are informed by such knowledge. Reversing this process of epistemic supremacy is crucial both for achieving greater cognitive justice in conservation areas and ensuring that conservation aims are achieved. Doing so, however, is not an easy task. In situations of cultural violence, hidden environmental knowledge is not easily made visible unless adequate conditions for it to emerge are created. I show that one way forward is by conservation engaging with the well-being agendas of indigenous people, in particular, with the construction of their life plans. This discussion is illustrated through a case study in Canaima National Park, Venezuela, where over the last 20 years, social-ecological research has been studying existing conflicts over the use of fire while supporting the development of Pemon (the indigenous peoples in this area) Life Plans. Assisting in the development of life plans through participatory historical reconstructions, territorial self-demarcation processes, and facilitation of community reflexivity about its social-ecological changes and desired future has been decisive for the Pemon, and has revealed fire management knowledge that challenges conventional explanations of landscape change that simplistically place the blame for such changes on the local use of fire. This local knowledge, combined with results from studies of Pemon fire regimes, fire behavior ecology, and paleoecological research, now informs a counter narrative of landscape change that is influencing a shift in environmental discourse and policy-making toward an intercultural fire management approach. By documenting how social-ecological research has engaged with the Pemon Life Plan processes, I show the important role that cultural revitalization plays in making hidden and silenced local environmental knowledge more visible, and hence, in achieving greater cognitive justice in conservation.
Este artículo examina el papel central que juega la revitalización cultural, sentando las bases para un diálogo de saberes simétrico respecto a temas ambientales contenciosos. Para ello, se discuten varias experiencias de investigación participativa llevadas a cabo en el Parque Nacional Canaima, Venezuela, entre 1999 y el presente, para facilitar el diálogo sobre el uso fuego al interior del pueblo indígena Pemón, con miras a fortalecer su capacidad de diálogo y negociación con otros actores sobre el manejo sustentable de sus territorios; esto incluyó discusiones sobre procesos de cambio cultural y de formación de identidad. Estas experiencias han demostrado que una vez que se da reconocimiento público a saberes ambientales que han estado históricamente excluidos, como parte de sus propias agendas de reafirmación política y cultural, los pueblos indígenas se pueden sentir más seguros para entablar diálogos con otros actores sobre temas complejos y multifactoriales, como el uso del fuego. Estos procesos de reflexión comunitaria amplia abren paso a una situación de mayor justicia cognitiva en la gestión ambiental y territorial que forma parte de un proceso más amplio de construcción de interculturalidad. El derecho de los pueblos indígenas al autorreflexión, a pensar de manera diferente y a la libre expresión de sus conocimientos y saberes, es esencial para que se pueda dar el dialogo y la interculturalidad en condiciones de equidad.
One of the distinctive features of environmental justice theory in Latin America is its influence by decolonial thought, which explains social and environmental injustices as arising from the project of modernity and the ongoing expansion of a European cultural imaginary. The decolonization of knowledge and social relations is highlighted as one of the key challenges for overcoming the history of violent oppression and marginalization in development and conservation practice in the region. In this paper we discuss how conflict transformation theory and practice has a role to play in this process. In doing so, we draw on the Socio-environmental Conflict Transformation (SCT) framework elaborated by Grupo Confluencias, which puts a focus on building community capacity to impact different spheres of power: people and networks, structures and cultural power. We discuss this framework and its practical use in the light of ongoing experiences with indigenous peoples in Latin America. We propose that by strengthening the power of agency of indigenous peoples to impact each of these spheres it is possible to build constructive intra and intercultural relations that can help increase social and environmental justice in their territories and thus contribute to decolonizing structures, relations and ways of being.
Indigenous peoples are among the most affected by environmental injustices globally, however environmental justice theory has not yet meaningfully addressed decolonisation and the resistance of Indigenous communities against extractivism in the settler-colonial context. This paper suggests that informing environmental justice through decolonial analysis and decolonising practices can help transcend the Western ontological roots of environmental justice theories and inform a more radical and emancipatory environmental justice. The Unist’ot’en clan Resistance and Action Camp blocking pipelines in northwestern British Columbia, Canada, their “Reimagined Free Prior and Informed Consent protocol” and the Delgamuukw case are described to discuss limitations of the state and legal framework for accommodating a decolonial and transformative environmental justice. A decolonial analysis informed by these two moments of Wet’suwet’en history suggests limits and adaptations to the trivalent EJ framework based on recognition, participation and distribution. It is argued that a decolonising and transformative approach to environmental justice must be based on self-governing authority, relational ontologies of nature and epistemic justice and the unsettling of power through the assertion of responsibility and care through direct action. This discussion is placed in the context of the expansion of the concept of ecological rights, for example through the enshrining of the “Rights of Nature” in the constitutions of countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador, to highlight the Inherent tensions in the translation of Indigenous cosmo-visions into legal systems based on universalist values.
El articulo explora los peligros del Proyecto Arco Minero para el avance de los derechos de los pueblos indigenas en Venezuela.
The present article analyses a unique database of 220 dam-related environmental conflicts, retrieved from the Global Atlas on Environmental Justice (EJAtlas), and based on knowledge co-production between academics and activists. Despite well-known controversial, social, and environmental impacts of dams, efforts to increase renewable energy generation have reinstated the interest into hydropower development globally. People affected by dams have largely denounced such ‘unsustainabilities’ through collective non-violent actions. Nevertheless, we found that repression, criminalization, violent targeting of activists and assassinations are recurrent features of conflictive dams. Violent repression is particularly high when indigenous people are involved. Indirect forms of violence are also analysed through socio-economic, environmental, and health impacts. We argue that increasing repression of the opposition against unwanted energy infrastructures does not only serve to curb specific protest actions, but also aims to delegitimize and undermine differing understanding of sustainability, epistemologies, and world views. This analysis cautions that allegedly sustainable renewables such as hydropower often replicates patterns of violence within a frame of an ‘extractivism of renewables’. We finally suggest that co-production of knowledge between scientists, activists, and communities should be largely encouraged to investigate sensitive and contentious topics in sustainability studies.
The environmental movement may be “the most comprehensive and influential movement of our time” (Castells 1997: 67), representing for the ‘post-industrial’ age what the workers’ movement was for the industrial period. Yet while strike statistics have been collected for many countries since the late nineteenth century (van der Velden 2007),1 until the present no administrative body tracks the occurrence and frequency of mobilizations or protests related to environmental issues at the global scale, in the way that the World Labour Organization tracks the occurrence of strike action.2 Thus until the present it has been impossible to properly document the prevalence and incidence of contentious activity related to environmental issues or to track the ebb and flow of protest activity. Such an exercise is necessary because if the twentieth century has been the one of workers struggles, the twenty-first century could well be the one of environmentalists. This Special Feature presents the results from such an exercise—The Global Atlas of Environmental Justice—a unique global inventory of cases of socio-environmental conflicts built through a collaborative process between academics and activist groups which includes both qualitative and quantitative data on thousands of conflictive projects as well as on the social response. This Special Feature applies the lenses of political ecology and ecological economics to unpack and understand these socio-environmental conflicts, otherwise known as ‘ecological distribution conflicts’, (hereafter EDCs, Martinez-Alier 1995, 2002). The contributions in this special feature explore the why, what, how and who of these contentious processes within a new comparative political ecology. The articles in this special issue underline the need for a politicization of socio-environmental debates, whereby political refers to the struggle over the kinds of worlds the people want to create and the types of ecologies they want to live in. We put the focus on who gains and who loses in ecological processes arguing that these issues need to be at the center of sustainability science. Secondly, we demonstrate how environmental justice groups and movements coming out of those conflicts play a fundamental role in redefining and promoting sustainability. We contend that protests are not disruptions to smooth governance that need to be managed and resolved, but that they express grievances as well as aspirations and demands and in this way may serve as potent forces that can lead to the transformation towards sustainability of our economies, societies and ecologies. The articles in this collection contribute to a core question of sustainability science—why and through what political, social and economic processes some are denied the right to a safe environment, and how to support the necessary social and political transformation to enact environmental justice.
A transformation to sustainability calls for radical and systemic societal shifts. Yet what this entails in practice and who the agents of this radical transformation are require further elaboration. This article recenters the role of environmental justice movements in transformations, arguing that the systemic, multi-dimensional and intersectional approach inherent in EJ activism is uniquely placed to contribute to the realization of equitable sustainable futures. Based on a perspective of conflict as productive, and a “conflict transformation” approach that can address the root issues of ecological conflicts and promote the emergence of alternatives, we lay out a conceptual framework for understanding transformations through a power analysis that aims to confront and subvert hegemonic power relations; that is, multi-dimensional and intersectional; balancing ecological concerns with social, economic, cultural and democratic spheres; and is multi-scalar, and mindful of impacts across place and space. Such a framework can help analyze and recognize the contribution of grassroots EJ movements to societal transformations to sustainability and support and aid radical transformation processes. While transitions literature tends to focus on artifacts and technologies, we suggest that a resistance-centred perspective focuses on the creation of new subjectivities, power relations, values and institutions. This recenters the agency of those who are engaged in the creation and recuperation of ecological and new ways of being in the world in the needed transformation.
This paper explores the political processes that activists engaged in contesting land grabbing have triggered to connect claims across borders and to international institutions, regimes and processes. Through a review of cases of land-grab resistance that have led to project cancelation or suspension, I argue that contextual elements of the land grab and shifting geopolitics highlight the need for adaptation and refinement of models of transnational advocacy, historically structured in North–South patterns. For example, while some elements of the boomerang pattern of transnational advocacy are still relevant, changing realities call for new empirically enriched models. To this end, I outline two typologies of political contention that can help us conceptualize multi-scalar interactions between activists to demonstrate the impact of local resistances at larger scales – ‘the catapult effect’ and the ‘minefield effect’. This paper contributes to calls for further theorization to understand how feedback processes between international discourses, meso-politics and conflicts and resistance at local sites of production impact the implementation of contested land deals.
The environmental movement has been described as ‘‘the most comprehensive and influential movement of our time’’ (Castells 1997: 67), representing for the ‘post-industrial’ age what the workers’ movement was for the industrial period. Yet while strike statistics have been collected for many countries since the late nineteenth century (van der Velden 2007), until the present no administrative body tracks the occurrence and frequency of mobilizations or protests related to environmental issues, in the way that the World Labour Organization tracks the occurrence of strike action (http://laborsta.ilo.org/) and thus it is impossible to properly document the prevalence and incidence of contentious activity related to environmental issues or to track the ebb and flow of protest activity. This paper contributes to a theoretical framework on environmental justice, drawing from our Global Atlas of Environmental Justice (www.EJ Atlas.org) with an inventory of about 1700 socio-environmental conflicts worldwide, as well as experiences from collaborative research on EJ in the EJOLT project (2011–15) (www.ejolt.org) involving activists and scholars to examine dynamics, trends and identify novelty through a systematic analysis of environmental conflicts. It opens up the following lines of research: What are the general contours of the Global EJ movement? Are socio-environmental movements of the poor and the indigenous gaining strength in their struggles, or are they being further marginal- ized? And what is the role and relative strength of appeals to identity politics? Are there scientific debates in these struggles? Are new “repertoires of action” appearing and diffusing among networks?
This chapter contributes to clarifying the nature and shape of the global environmental movement, drawing on literature on the history of environmental protest as well as on the empirical evidence from the Global Environmental Justice Atlas. Through these narratives, as well as literatures from political ecology, environmental philosophy, eco-feminism, ecological economics, history, anthropology and sociology, this chapter aims to distill some of the core characteristics, unresolved tensions and relevant future lines of enquiry of an emerging radical and transformative global EJ movement. These include a focus on ecological justice that takes into account relations with nonhuman nature and navigates the tension between conservation and livelihoods, considered in the first section; a global materialist perspective that questions the structural basis of the economy, taken up in the second; and the increasing globalization and interconnectedness between struggles and their simultaneously oppositional and constructive politics, illustrated in the third. The article concludes with avenues for future research. By drawing on historical as well as current examples, I hope to demonstrate that EJ, while only recently defined as such, has a long and rich history around the world that far predates Western environmentalism as we know it. This brings attention to the need for diverse and situated understandings of environmentalism, and for going beyond northern theoretical understandings of environmental justice to one informed by non-Eurocentric epistemologies and ontologies.
One of the causes of the increasing number of ecological distribution conflicts around the world is the changing metabolism of the economy in terms of growing flows of energy and materials. There are conflicts on resource extraction, transport and waste disposal. Therefore, there are many local complaints, as shown in the Atlas of Environmental Justice (EJatlas) and other inventories. And not only complaints; there are also many successful examples of stopping projects and developing alternatives, testifying to the existence of a rural and urban global movement for environmental justice. Moreover, since the 1980s and 1990s, this movement has developed a set of concepts and campaign slogans to describe and intervene in such conflicts. They include environmental racism, popular epidemiology, the environmentalism of the poor and the indigenous, biopiracy, tree plantations are not forests, the ecological debt, climate justice, food sovereignty, land grabbing and water justice, among other concepts. These terms were born from socio-environmental activism, but sometimes they have also been taken up by academic political ecologists and ecological economists who, for their part, have contributed other concepts to the global environmental justice movement, such as ‘ecologically unequal exchange’ or the ‘ecological footprint’.