Ecological distribution conflicts: the EJAtlas

Joan Martínez-Alier
Tuesday 26th June, 10.00-11.30, ICTA-UAB

Concepts such as environmental racism, popular epidemiology, environmentalism of the poor and the indigenous, biopiracy or food sovereignty, and many others, serve to describe and participate in ecological distribution conflicts. They are conflicts related to the extraction and transport of resources and disposal of waste occurring worldwide, as shown in the Atlas of Environmental Justice and other inventories, which also present examples of stopping projects and developing alternatives.

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 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, water justice, among other concepts.

These terms were born from socio-environmental activism but sometimes they have been taken up also by academic political ecologists and ecological economists who, on their part, have contributed other concepts to the global environmental justice movement, e.g. ‘ecologically unequal exchange’ or the ‘ecological footprint’.

Readings: Martínez-Alier, Joan et al. 2016. Is there a global environmental justice movement? The Journal of Peasant Studies, 43(3): 731-755. DOI:10.1080/03066150.2016.114119