Are Environmental Justice movements in the South a source of transformations towards Degrowth?

Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos

Tuesday 26th June, 10.00-11.30, UAB Campus

From a social metabolism point of view, both environmental justice (EJ) and degrowth movements warn against the increase in the physical size of the economy. They both have extractivism and debt-fuelled economies as common enemies. Importantly, they both rely on social movements that have lead scholarship in its activities and achievements. Therefore, some argue the existence of an obvious alliance between degrowth and EJ movements in the Global South. Against this, direct observation unravels concerns from EJ activists in the Global South about the real plausibility for an alliance until some significant differences have been examined. Activists’ relevance in inspiring, promoting and disseminating transformations in their scope of action is well-known. Therefore, gaining views on their perspective on degrowth is key to promote informed co-operations. The aim of this session is systematically disclosing main concerns and possible analogies between the scope of action of environmental justice organisations operating in the Global South and main propositions of the Degrowth movements. The argumentation was built after a systematic scrutiny of some core themes in the degrowth debate from critical thinkers in the Global South. This represents an international coverage including insights from environmental justice struggles in Ecuador, Italy, Kenya, South Africa, Uruguay, with important implications in Brazil, Mozambique, and Indonesia. While departing from the social metabolism and ecological economics literature, including the notion of ecological distribution conflicts, the paper soon engages with the EJ frameworks. The implications of the degrowth debate for the Global South have been increasingly explored in the last few years. This paper contributes to this exploration by providing an assessment of both hampering and enhancing factors with a focus on EJ in the Global South informed by an activist perspective.

Description of the method
This session will combine a short lecture with a longer discussion session. Students will be expected to read in advance the bibliography below. At the beginning, there will be questions to the students on key notions and ideas of environmental justice. After a short supplementary power point presentation, the session will be devoted to a Q&A session around the core ideas presented in the reading. The criticisms and analogies presented in the paper will be discussed in groups. Is the critique fair? Is the analogy robust enough? Examples? Counter-examples? How can the critique be overcome? How can the analogy be used to promote an alliance?


Compulsory readings

Rodríguez-Labajos B, Yanez I, Bond P, Greyl L, Munguti S, Ojo G, Overbeek W. 2018. Not so natural an alliance? Degrowth and environmental justice movements in the South. Ecological Economics. Submitted.