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Presentation on theme: "Leipzig, July 2013 ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE, ENVIRONMENTALISM OF THE POOR, AND DEGROWTH Joan Martinez-Alier ICTA-UAB Barcelona"— Presentation transcript:


2 GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE The flows of energy and materials in the world economy have never been so large as today. This increased social metabolism is causing more and more conflicts on resource extraction and waste disposal. This gives rise to movements for environmental justice around the world.

3 The words “environmental justice” were first used in the United States in the early 1980s for local complaints against the disproportionate pollution burdens in areas primarily inhabited by disadvantaged ethnic groups but the term is now applied to spontaneous movements and EJOs (environmental justice organizations) anywhere in the world (and to the networks or coalitions they form across borders),.

4 The alliance between Degrowth and Environmental Justice Degrowth is a small movement arguing that a democratic collective decision to consume and produce less in the global North is the most appropriate solution for the multiple crises. Renouncing economic growth in the North would help humanity to stay within the ecological limits of the planet. The main allies for this new economy are the environmental justice movements of North and South.

5 Environmental Justice and Economic Degrowth: An Alliance between Two Movements, by J. Martinez-Alier Capitalism Nature Socialism, 2012, 23(1): 51-73 Available in the web

6 Localism or Cosmopolitanism? Degrowth is based on projects such as food cooperatives, urban gardening, local currencies, co-housing projects, waste reduction and reuse initiatives… Proponents of degrowth in the North should have a world vision also. They should be cosmopolitans, concerned about human rights and Rights of Nature everywhere. They are natural allies of those who in the South champion the concept of “buen vivir” or Sumak Kawsay.

7 The EJOLT project 2011-15 A European project, 23 partners from civil society and universities from 20 countries, EJOLT = Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade We study resource extraction and waste disposal conflicts

8 Metabolismo creciente Flujo de materiales Growing Metabolism and appropriation of biomass

9 Social Metabolism and Environmental Conflicts Energy cannot be recycled, therefore even an economy that would not grow but that would use large amounts of fossil fuels, would need “fresh” supplies coming from the commodity frontiers. The same applies to materials, which in practice can be recycled only to some extent (like copper, aluminium, steel or paper). When the economy grows, the search for materials and energy sources is of course even greater.

10 Georgescu-Roegen (1906-94) Economists should study the Metabolic Flows in the economy. The economy is an open system. Author of The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, 1971 A long history of debate on energy and the economy since the 1880s (cf. JMA & KS, Ecological Economics: Energy, Environment and Society, Blackwell, Oxford, 1987).

11 NGR, influenced by Alfred Lotka Around 1900, discussion on Entropy vs Evolution (Sadi Carnot vs Darwin as Prigogine and Stengers would put it). But there was no contradiction, as explained by A.J. Lotka (who had studied in Leipzig with W. Otwald). Elements of Physical Biology (1925). Lotka introduced the difference between endosomatic and exosomatic metabolism in the human species.

12 Is life anti-entropic? Is our economy based on the fossil fuels, entropic? F. Auerbach, Ektropismus oder die physikalische Theorie des Lebens, Jena, Gustav Fischer, 1910 NGR also very much influenced by E. Schrödinger, What is Life?, 1944 For NGR, economics should study the metabolic flows of energy and materials, in a fund-flow model.

13 Social Metabolism and Environmental Injustices There is “accumulation by dispossession” (Harvey, 2003) or Raubwirtschaft, … … and there is “accumulation through contamination”, meaning that profits increase by the ability to dispose of the “effluents of affluence” and other waste at zero or low cost. This does not indicate so much a market failure as a (provisional) cost-shifting success.

14 Methods for the study of Social Metabolism Increased Material Flows (in tons) Increased energy flows (and decreasing EROI: energy return on energy input) Increased flows on “virtual water” in exports of soybeans, ethanol, cellulose… Increased HANPP, including the “embodied HANPP”

15 TRENDS: loss of biodiversity 20 years after the UN Rio de Janeiro conference of 1992, the objective of the EU and the UN of halting the loss of biodiversity by the year 2010 has not been achieved and it has been ditched in practice. The HANPP (human appropriation of net primary production) puts increasing pressure on biodiversity.

16 Trends Biodiversity loss is sometimes seen as a market failure to be corrected by suitable pricing. At other times bad governance, unsuitable institutions, and neoliberal policies are blamed. However, the main underlying cause of the loss of biodiversity is the increased social metabolism of the human economy.

17 TRENDS in CO2 emissions CO2 concentration was about 300 ppm when Svante Arrhenius (1896) wrote about the Glashauswirkung, enhanced greenhouse effect; it is now 400 ppm. The yearly increase is 2 ppm. CO2 emissions by the economy come mostly from burning fossil fuels. Peak oil in the Hubbert curve is now very near. This means more burning of coal although the production of CO2 per unit of energy from coal is larger than for oil and gas.

18 TRENDS: towards degrowth in rich economics leading to a steady state? Taking into account other trends like the drop in the availability of many edible species of fish, the spread of nuclear energy and its military proliferation, and the approaching “peak phosphorous”, it is time to go back to the debates of the 1970s on the desirability of a steady-state economy in rich countries, and indeed of a period of degrowth (décroissance, decrescita).

19 Debates of the 1970s People refer to the Stiglitz/Sen (and Sarkozy) in 2009 as the main intellectual forces behind the critique of GDP. However, from the 1970s-80s, authors like Georgescu-Roegen, Roefie Hueting, Herman Daly… already did this. Sicco Mansholt, André Gorz, Ivan Ilich… And feminist ecological economists like M.Waring (1988).

20 Peak population: love one another more, and do not multiply so much Peak population will be reached in 2045 at perhaps 8.500 million people? Good. The debates between Malthusians and Marxists, and between Malthusians and economists who favour population growth, are still relevant today as also the doctrines of feminist Neo- Malthusians of 1880-1920.

21 Feminist Neo-Malthusianism of 1900

22 Summary, so far Even an economy that would not grow but that uses large amounts of fossil fuels, needs “fresh” supplies coming from the commodity frontiers. The same applies to materials. When the economy grows, the search for materials and energy sources is even greater. Population has also grown. Therefore, many conflicts on Resource Extraction and Waste Disposal (incl. climate change).

23 VARIETIES OF ENVIRONMENTALISM We separate between a) Conservationism b) Eco-efficiency, Ecological modernization c) Environmental Justice Here we focus on the third one: Environmental Justice including the Environmentalism of the Poor and the Indigenous, and Materialist Ecofeminism.

24 The environmentalism of the poor A welcome trend is the growth of the environmentalism of the poor and of indigenous people. Women are often in the lead in such conflicts. This is part of the global Environmental Justice Movement

25 Materialist Ecofeminism Despite the social difficulties in making themselves heard, women are often in the lead in the environmentalism of the poor. Nevertheless, the EJ movements are still trying to come to terms with Feminism, which is an older and increasingly successful movement. There are nevertheless obvious links.

26 ... 5th March 2012, Acción Ecológica’s activists peacefully occupied for some hours the Chinese embassy in Quito, complaining against open cast copper mining in Shuar territory in Cordillera del Cóndor.

27 There is a current of “essentialist” ecofeminism where women and men are regarded as distinct as a result of their biological natures. Women are deemed to be biologically closer to nature than men. This has been challenged by activists and scholars arguing for a materialist ecofeminism.

28 This materialist current is studied by feminist environmentalism (Agarwal, 1992), feminist political ecology (Rocheleau et al., 1996), socialist or materialist ecofeminism (Mellor, 1997; Merchant, 1992), ecofeminist political economy (Mellor, 2006) and feminist ecological economics (Waring, 1988, Perkins and Kuiper, 2005; Perkins, 2007; O'Hara, 2009).

29 Bina Agarwal (1992) : women more often collect water, gather wood, look for medicinal plants, tend to domestic animals, grow crops, have greater knowledge and awareness of their community’s direct dependence on the natural environment. This does not imply that women’s empathy with nature is denied to men. The argument is based on social roles. In cities, women often take leading positions in environmental justice conflicts (in contrast to labour union struggles) as regards complaints against waste dumping, or air or water pollution, or green spaces or housing.

30 Women's role in environmental conflicts has the potential to help achieve environmental justice as well as to simultaneously challenge local masculine domination. When women take active part in EJ struggles they often redefine their social position within their own culture, while at the same time challenging the global economy (Sandra Veuthey, e.html)

31 ECOLOGICAL DISTRIBUTION CONFLICTS There are Resource Extraction Conflicts also Transport Conflicts also Waste Disposal Conflicts (excessive CO2 production is perhaps the main one).

32 Complaints against oil extraction and mining If we look at the Social Metabolism of the economy (in terms of energy and material flows including water), we see that it is increasing all the time. Let me repeat: even an industrial economy without growth requires fresh supplies of fossil energies and of materials, because energy cannot be recycled and materials are recycled only in part.

33 Kalinganagar, Odisha, monument to those killed on 2 Jan.06 defeding their land against TATA photo 2 Jan 2007: Leah Temper, UAB

34 The movements of the environmentalism of the poor exercise the right to previous consent under Convention 169 of ILO applied to indigenous communities, or introduce local referendums on mining (Esquel, Tambogrande) … …or develop new plans for leaving fossil fuels in the ground as in the Yasuní ITT oilfields in Ecuador. Attempts have been made to bring Shell to court in The Hague for what it does in the Niger Delta or Chevron-Texaco for what it did in Ecuador. ATCA no longer applicable (Rio Tinto – Bougainville...).

35 NEW BOOK: Ecological Economics from the Ground Up, ed. by H. Healy, J.Martinez-Alier, L.Temper, M.Walter and J.F. Gerber, 2013.

36 Claims for payment of environmental liabilities The economy works in practice by shifting costs to poor people, to future generations, and to other species. K W Kapp, 1910-76, externalities are not market failures but cost-shifting successes. Sometimes, environmental liabilities appear in the public scene when there are complaints, or when there are sudden accidents (BP in the Gulf of Mexico, 2010, TEPCO in Fukushima, 2011) The pedagogy of catastrophes. Catastrophisme éclairé (Jean Pierre Dupuy).

37 From metabolic flows to ecological distribution conflicts Geographical scope ----------------- Stage Local National and Regional Global Extraction Resource conflicts in tribal areas, such as bauxite mining in Odisha, oil extraction in Amazonia Mangrove uprooting. Tree planting for export Collapses of fisheries Worldwide search for minerals and fossil fuels, and bio- piracy by MNCs Regulation of “corporate accountability” Transport and Trade Complaints on urban motorways because of noise, pollution, landscape loss Inter-basin water transport Oil/gas pipelines (e.g. Burma to Thailand) Oil spills at sea “Ecologically unequal exchange” because of large South to North material flows Waste disposal and pollution, post- consumption Conflicts on incinerators (dioxins) or ozone in urban areas Acid rain from sulphur dioxide Nuclear waste, Yucca Mountain, Nevada, USA Ship dismantling (Alang) CO2, CFC as causes of climate change/ ozone layer destruction POPs even in remote pristine areas Claims for a “carbon debt” A third axis: the temporal dimension

38 STATISTICS AND MAPS OF ECOLOGICAL DISTRIBUTION CONFLICTS The role of activist knowledge On conflicts on water in Brazil, the MAB, the CPT, and in the world the IRN. On mining in Latin America, the OCMAL On oil extraction, Oilwatch On mangroves vs shrimp, RedManglar On land grabbing, GRAIN On pesticides in agriculture, PAN, RAP-AL On tree-plantations conflicts, WRM

39 Statistical Political Ecology From case-studies we move to produce inventories and (thematic and regional) maps of ecological distribution conflicts (J F Gerber on tree plantation conflicts, in Global Env Change, 2011), drawing on the activist knowledge of the EJOs..

40 Why do EJOs arise? Conflicts over biomass extraction (e.g., against deforestation, agro-fuels, overfishing), mining or oil and gas exploration and extraction, and water use (dams, river diversions, aquifers) There are also conflicts over transport and its infrastructures, and waste disposal (waste dumps or incinerators, air and soil pollution, electronic waste exports, ship-breaking) (Photo, Federico Demaria, UAB, 2010,Alang, Gujarat).

41 Alang (Photo, Federico Demaria, UAB, 2009)

42 Why do EJOs arise? The largest waste disposal conflict is over dumping sites for excess CO2. There are also conflicts over the application of new technologies (cyanide in open pit gold mining, GMOs, nuclear energy, geo- engineering) that cause uncertain risks that are unfairly distributed (Pereira and Funtowicz, 2009). Need for statistics of environmental conflicts, for research on their causes (main cause: the growth of social metabolism).

43 VALUATION LANGUAGES When is money valuation appropriate? Money valuation is the appropriate language in court cases for liability… Money valuation is only one of several “valuation languages” available. For instance, recent decisions of shale gas fracking in France. Which valuation languages are deployed? Decisions in Romania on Rosia Montana? Consider the Vedanta case in the Niyamgiri hill below. Are livelihood, tribal territorial rights, the loss of unique biodiversity… commensurable with money?

44 Economics of Biodiversity and the TEEB project Article by Beatriz R.Labajos and J. Martínez- Alier The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity: when is money valuation appropriate? critical of TEEB in press in Conservation and Society and published as a chapter of the book Ecological Economics from the Ground Up (Routledge, London, 2013).

45 Vedanta and the Niyamgiri Hill Activists and communities are sometimes able together with EJOs to stop destruction of habitats and livelihoods (as in August 2010 in the Niyamgiri Hill in Odisha against the Vedanta company plans for bauxite mining, cf. F. Padel & S. Das, 2010). Forthcoming article by Leah Temper and JMA in Ecological Economics on this case.

46 The Niyamgiri hill in Odisha is sacred to the Dongria Kondh. It is still threatened by bauxite mining by the Vedanta company from London. We could ask the Dongria Kondh: How much for your God? How much for the services provided by your God?

47 Niyamgiri sal forest Photo by Leah Temper, UAB January 2007

48 Valuation Languages Who has the right (or the power) to simplify complexity and impose one language of valuation? Incommensurability of values is at the root of ecological economics (JMA & KS, Ecological Economics, 1987). Going back to the Socialist Calculation Debate of the 1920s-30: Otto Neurath vs. von Mises and Hayek.

49 Otto Neurath vs von Mises and Hayek This has been analyzed by JMA and John O’Neill since 1987. Otto Neurath in the 1920s in the Socialist Calculation Debate favoured a Naturalrechnung. L. von Mises wrote that without prices there could not be a rational economy. Max Weber agreed. Otto Neurath disagreed. Otto Neurath asked: should we use more coal now and less human labour, or keep coal for the future and use now more human labour… Technical-ethical question, not chrematistic.

50 Otto Neurath’s Naturalrechnung Otto Neurath is one of a list of authors who criticized economics because economists did not study the social metabolism. E.g. Patrick Geddes, Frederick Soddy… (lumped together as “social engineers” by Hayek in The Counterrevolution of Science). Otto Neurath was inspired by Josef Popper-Lynkeus, by Ballod-Atlanticus… ecological utopianism of the 1900s.

51 Max Weber’s silly critique against Wilhelm Ostwald Wilhelm Ostwald, in Energetische Grundlagen der Kulturwissenschaft (Leipzig, 1909), explained that there were two “laws” of economic history: a) greater use of energy and lower use of human energy b) greater efficiency in use of energy (N.B. Jevons’ paradox, 1865). Max Weber said that the use of energy from different sources was explained by prices in the economy. Chemists should not write on economic history.

52 Activist-led social sustainability science Grassroots concepts and proposals, serving the EJOs’ interests and values. Environmental justice, environmental racism, popular epidemiology, environmentalism of the poor, biopiracy, ecological debt, carbon debt, climate justice, 350 ppm, water justice, water as a human right, water harvesting, water audits, pedestrian and cyclist rights…

53 EJOs’ grassroots concepts and proposals (cont.) “grand useless and imposed projects” (GPII), food justice, food deserts, food sovereignty, “plantations are not forests”, “green deserts”, agrofuels, land grabbing, “peasant agriculture cools down the earth”, indigenous territorial rights, defence of the commons, “sand mafia”, local referendums or consultations with veto power, Rights of Nature…

54 Grassroots concepts and proposals from EJOs (cont.) … resource caps, to yasunize, to “ogonize”, consumer blindness, Ecomafia, greenwashing, corporate accountability, décroissance, degrowth, Energiewende, Wachstumswende, ethical banking, no “debt-fuelled” economy, local currencies, post-extractivism, international tribunal for environmental crimes…

55 ACTIVIST-LED SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY SCIENCES: one example, the claim for the Ecological Debt

56 CLIMATE JUSTICE Confronted by the threats and the injustices of climate change in an unequal world, claims for climate justice and from the repayment of the ecological debt are heard from the South, from the EJOs and also sometimes from some government representatives.

57 The Climate Debt Not only the Climate Justice activists, also many governments of relatively poor countries now claim the repayment of the ecological debt. In Copenhagen in December 2009 at least 20 heads of government or ministers explicitly mentioned the ecological debt (or climate debt) in their speeches, some using also the loaded word “reparations”.

58 The Climate Debt: a money issue? "admitting responsibility for the climate crisis without taking necessary actions to address it is like someone burning your house and then refusing to pay for it… It is entirely unjustifiable that countries like Bolivia are now forced to pay for the crisis … Our glaciers dwindle, droughts become ever more common, and water supplies are drying up. Who should address this? To us it seems only right that the polluter should pay, and not the poor. We are not assigning guilt, merely responsibility. As they say in the US, if you break it, you buy it." Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN, 2009

59 Some final comments on the Alliance between the EJOs (enviromental justice organizations) and the small Degrowth movement in Europe

60 1st International Conference on Degrowth, Paris, April 2008 (

61 Activist-academic conferences on Degrowth Paris 2008 Barcelona 2010 Montréal and Venice 2012 Leipzig 2014 !!! Research & Degrowth (R&D) is an academic association dedicated to research, training, awareness raising and events organization around degrowth.

62 Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, 1979, Demain la Décroissance From activism to a research programme on the environmental, technological, economic, demographic, social, socio-psychological aspects of “socially sustainable economic degrowth”. In 2012-13 special issues on Degrowth in Futures/ Ecological Economics / Journal of Cleaner Production / Environmental Values / Capitalism, Nature, Socialism

63 Degrowth leading to a steady state economy in terms of social metabolism The new ecological macroeconomics without growth of Peter Victor, Managing without growth (2008) Tim Jackson, Prosperity without growth (2009)

64 A new Dictionary of Degrowth In preparation at ICTA UAB in Barcelona, edited by G. Kallis et al, to be published by Routledge. About 150 entries, length between 500 and 1500 words per entry. Might become so influential or even more influential than the Dictionary of Post- Development edited by Wolfgang Sachs in the 1980s.

65 Video LIFE AFTER GROWTH – Economics for Everyone by Claudia Medina and Leah Temper

66 Main point: The Southern EJOs’ potential alliance with the small Degrowth movement in Europe based on a common perspective against the hegemony of money accounting in favour of pluralism of values, support for reproductive rights (feminist neo-Malthusianism of 1900), defence of indigenous territorial rights at the commodity frontiers, and the Rights of Nature, the recognition of caring work, the ecological debt, and the critique of ecologically unequal exchange.


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