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The EnvJustice project advisory board

A five-year ERC Advanced Grant to analyze the Global Environmental Justice Movement was awarded in March 2016 to Joan Martinez-Alier, ICTA-UAB. The project started in June 2016, a website was launched early 2017 and at the end of June 2017, the advisory board met for the first time. With this blog post we’ll give you a little look into the cuisine intern of the EnvJustice project.

Three goals

The EnvJustice project will expand the Environmental Justice Atlas (EJAtlas), a worldwide inventory of ecological distribution conflicts. It will compile a vocabulary of environmental justice. It will also analyze the alliance between the Global Environmental Justice Movement and the Degrowth movement in Europe. The key question asked in the project: Is there a Global Movement for Environmental Justice helping to push society and economy towards environmental sustainability? EnvJustice will try to prove there is, through research on the many facets of this movement. And it will support that movement in any way it can.

Three days

On day 1 the advisory board started with a discussion on what a movement is and how to recognize it – under the guidance of Joan Martinez Alier. Later, post-doc researchers Daniela Del Bene and Juan Liu updated the team on the EJAtlas database, featured maps and under-represented areas. After lunch, post-doc researcher Sara Mingorria talked on the cultural vocabulary of the EnvJustice movement – giving examples of music video’s on youtube that have helped to mobilize people for environmental justice. Post-doc researcher Federico Demaria talked on the linkages between the degrowth society and the EnvJustice movement and invited the group to submit paper proposals for a special issue in a peer reviewed magazine on these linkages.

On day 2 the meeting went more personal – with all four post-doc researchers and all four doctoral students getting chances to go into small group discussions with the senior professor and practitioners from the advisory board. In the afternoon it was the turn of the 20 students in the degrowth summer school to make use of the knowledge of the advisors. In between all this, some 15 video interviews were taken, in which each person from the team explains one term from the vocabulary of either degrowth or environmental justice. These will later be posted on a dedicated youtube channel. In the evening, someone from the Ende Gelande action in Germany played a fascinating theatrical performance about the essence of radical environmental activism.

On day 3 we started with a discussion on research ethics and then looked into the communications strategy for the project. The sister project Acknowl-ej was presented and everyone from the board got one more chance to give further feedback.

Some take home messages

The aim of this blog is not to bring you the minutes of the meeting – but to give you an idea of the inner workings of the EnvJustice project and a taste of the thinking that’s going on. To get a flavor of the discussion: here are just a few soundbites that stood out for this author.

In a way the environmental justice movement is the opposite of the Not In My Back Yard activism. It’s not about no chemical plant or new oil drilling here or there but everywhere. A movement also doesn’t need to have a politburo somewhere in order to be called a movement. The feminist movement sure never had a central headquarters but was still successful in many ways. The language used also differs from one continent or country to the other. In China nobody uses “environmentalism” but they do speak a lot about water grabbing or land appropriation and forced migrations. People said we need to identify the values that we all share in order to identify the global environmental justice movement.

The ethics discussion soon became a serious self-reflection. “Are academics who tap into the knowledge from activists not like scavengers”? There was a high degree of self-critique as to who really benefits from the work done in the project “Co-design of the research agenda together with the communities is essential. This differs from the dominant form of producing academic knowledge – which is a form of extractivism and recolonization. After all, it takes knowledge, transforms it in its own jargon and then imposes it in the frame it gives to reality.” The talk was about “socialising” the rewards of research and that was also the perfect introduction for the next session on the broader communication beyond the academic circles. In the latter, people in the board gave a great many names of the kind of media that would be good to get into – and who had contacts where. In return, we promised to help the people in the board by preparing a good 2 page doc with background and soundbites so that they can refer to us when doing their media work.

Who is advising theEnvJustice project?

The website has all the information on the core team that executes the day to day work in the project – but these are the people in our council of wise and experienced advisers:

Patrick Bond was born in 1961, Belfast Northern Ireland. He is professor of political economy at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). His research interests include political economy, environment, social policy, and geopolitics. He was enrolled in a doctoral program, supervised by David Harvey and received his PhD in 1993 (“Finance and uneven development in Zimbabwe”). He relocated to South Africa in 1990 and worked with NGOs during the early and mid-1990s. Bond’s work is primarily on the political economy of Africa, international finance, eco-social development and political ecology, and development issues in contemporary South Africa. He works in urban communities and with global justice movements in several countries.

Rutgerd Boelens. Special Professor, Political Ecology of Water in Latin America (CEDLA, Univ. Amsterdam). Personal Professor Water Governance and Social Justice (Water Resources Management, Dept Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University). Director Justicia Hídrica/Water Justice Alliance. Coordinator NWO programs on Water Struggles. His research focuses on water rights, legal pluralism, cultural politics, and political ecology, in Latin America and Spain. He worked as action-researcher on rural development in the Andean countries (1992-1997), and before founding Justicia Hídrica in 2009 (www.justiciahidrica.or). He directed the international Water Law and Indigenous Rights alliance WALIR (2001-2007), and several large NUFFIC programs on water governance in Latin America. Boelens graduated in environmental sciences (M.Sc) and social sciences (Ph.D., 2008) at Wageningen University.

Godwin Ojo was born in Nigeria. He is one of the founders of Environmental Rights Action, ERA, the Nigerian organization. In Nigeria ERA sustains a large network of village communities on whose soil oil companies operate, like the Ogoni, and operates a hotline people can call to report oil spills. ERA went to court for several cases against oil companies. The NGO is also closely involved in the court case against Shell started by Milieudefensie and four Nigerian farmers. Ojo is the executive director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria / Environmental Rights Action. As a Chevening scholar, he received his MSc in Environment and Development studies in 2000 from the University of East Anglia, (UK), and obtained his PhD from King’s College, London.

Leah Temper is a trans-disciplinary researcher, activist and filmmaker with a degree in communications science in Concordia University, Montreal and a doctorate in Ecological Economics from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She is co-director of the Global Atlas of Environmental Justice (ejatlas.org), an initiative mapping ecological conflicts and spaces of resistance around the world. She has published in numerous journals and is the co-editor of the book “Ecological Economics from the Ground Up”. She is co-director of the project Academic-Activist Co-Produced Knowledge for Environmental Justice (ACKnowl- EJ 2016-2018).

Paul Mohai: his teaching and research interests are focused on environmental justice, public opinion and the environment, and influences on environmental policy making. He is a founder of the Environmental Justice Program at the University of Michigan and a major contributor to the growing body of quantitative research examining disproportionate environmental burdens and their impacts on low income and people of color communities. In 1990, he co- organized with Dr. Bunyan Bryant the “Michigan Conference on Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards. He is author or co-author of “Environmental Racism: Reviewing the Evidence”, “Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards”, “Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty”, and “Which Came First, People or Pollution?”

Arturo Escobar is the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA. His academic research interests include political ecology, anthropology of development, social movements, anti-globalization movements, and post-development theory. He received a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering in 1975 from the University of Valle in Cali, Colombia. He earned a master’s degree in food science and international nutrition at Cornell University in 1978. In 1987 he received an interdisciplinary Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley, Escobar’s most famous book is Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World.

Ivonne Yanez is founder member of Accion Ecologica, Ecuadorian environmental organisation in defence of collective and nature rights since 1986 and also co-founder of Oilwatch in 1995, which is oil activities resistance network. Ivonne works on energy, climate change and, more recently, environmental services. She has been an active promoter of the Keep the Oil in the Soil campaign for many years, with Yasuni ITT as the emblematic case.

Begüm Özkaynak holds a BA and MA in Economics from Boğaziçi University an MPhil in Economics from University of Manchester and a PhD in Ecological Economics and Environmental Management from ICTA-UAB. She is an Associate Professor of Economics at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey. Her research interests include environmental and ecological economics, sustainable development, environmental conflicts and governance. Recently, she has been working on projects investigating environmental conflicts and theenvironmental movements in Turkey. She is also a board member of the European Society of Ecological Economics.

Tatiana Roa Avendaño is former oil engineer and a Colombian activist for Censat Agua Viva (http://www.censat.org) a Colombian association starting in mid-80s working on creating alternatives to development to deal with health, work and environmental problems based on local communities. She is interested in particular on the movements of resistance, and local struggles for water and territory. She has been a member of the Committee of Friends of the Earth International.

Ashish Kothari is an Indian environmentalist working on development, environment interface, biodiversity policy, and alternatives. He is one of founders of Kalpavriksh, a Non- Profit Organisation in India which deals with environmental and development issues. He has been associated with peoples’ movements. Kothari has also been a teacher of environment at Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi. He has also been a guest faculty at several universities and institutes. He has been a member of Steering Committees of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy (CEESP). He has also served on the steering group or governing board of the CBD (Convention On Biodiversity) Alliance the ICCA Consortium, and Greenpeace International. At present, he is the chairman Greenpeace India’s Board. Since early 2016 Ashish is co-director of the Academic-Activist Co-produced Knowledge for Environmental Justice (ACKnowl-EJ) project.

Catherine Larrère is a French philosopher and Professor Emerita at the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, specialist in moral and political philosophy. She obtained her PhD in Arts and Humanities in 1988 where she studied the philosophy of law from the 18th century. Her dissertation was named: The invention of the economy in the 18th century. At the beginning of the 1990s decade she specialized in environmental ethics. She was President of the Political Ecology Foundation from 2013 to 2016, an independent think-tank related to the French green political party EELV. Her last book, published in January 2017 is called: Les inégalités environnementales (The environmental inequalities)

Anna Lora-Wainrights is an Associate Professor of Human Geography of China in the University of Oxford and a well known writer on “cancer villages” in China. She recently published an impressive book, “Resigned activism: Living with pollution in rural China” based on comparative field work in villages and towns in three provinces: Hunan, Yunnan and Guandong. Studies range for damage to health from heavy metals by local mining and industrial firms to e-waste recycling. She asks the question, when and how do villagers and activists complain, and still more relevantly, why do they so often put up with pollution and do not complain publicly and instead “adapt” individually? How does the system achieve a “normalization of pollution”?

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