Talk renewables, walk coal: The paradox of India’s energy transition

Coal is on the rise in India: despite the devasting impacts of the climate crisis, the awareness for land and forest rights, and political talk of a coal phase-out. In this article, we demonstrate that despite the renewables-led rhetoric, India is in the midst of a transition to (not away from) greater use of coal in its fossil energy system and in the electricity system in particular. We investigate this paradox by combining socio-metabolic and political-ecological analysis of the Indian coal complex. Our framework integrates material and energy flow data as characterizing the Indian fossil energy transition, indicators on the development and structure of the coal industry, and studies of ecological distribution conflicts around coal. The dominant claim to expansive use of coal and the competing counterclaims are indicative of underlying power relations which can also be witnessed in other countries. In India, they extend into the conflicted development of renewable energy including hydropower, in which the land dispossession, exclusion, and injustices associated with the expansion of the coal complex are reproduced. We conclude that the current energy transition – in which coal continues to play a dominant role – is neither sustainable nor just.

Ecological Economics, vol.180, February 2021

RAVEN DeBriefs: A Podcast – COVID Capitalism: The Case Against Coastal Gas Link with Caily DiPuma

RAVEN DeBriefs are conversations between Indigenous thinkers, legal experts, organizers and community leaders exploring the shifting legal landscape upon which moments of crisis — and opportunity — are built.

Season 1, Episode 4 – COVID Capitalism: The Case Against Coastal Gas Link with Caily DiPuma:

Find out how Wet’suwet’en Nation are pushing back against fracked gas with a legal challenge calling out Coastal Gas Link for failing to care for the Indigenous People in whose territory they operate.

(Excerpts from Raven’s website.)

How to construct the alternative to capitalism? Discovering the commons in the environmental justice movements

Environmental justice movements are taking place at an ever accelerating rate through out the world. Through mobilization of people with diverse societal backgrounds, race, ethnicity, age, gender and income levels, they not only challenge the existing state-society-economy spectrum but also contain important clues about an alternative to capitalism. As crisis vocabulary has become a chronic part of today’s neoliberal world, an alternative to capitalism is sought by many. Since environmental justice movements are one of the most widespread counter-hegemonic movements, and that they counter capital by their nature, understanding the demands of the participants might shed a light on an alternative world design. All in all, only an alternative design which addresses and understands the demands of the people challenging the current system can offer a true alternative to it. Accordingly, this article aims to find out what originates from community based environmental justice movements in the South about an alternative world design. It aspires to empower the link between the de-growth paradigm and the grassroots community demands. It comparatively evaluates the protestors’ demands, and visions about an alternative world design in two environmental justice movements, Bergama and Artvin protests.

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – The post Wiindigo, regenerative economy

Conferencia de la Plenaria del Miércoles por Winona Laduke: “The post Wiindigo, regenerative economy”

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – La economía industrial no es circular sino entrópica

Conferencia de la Plenaria del Jueves por Joan Martínez Alier: “La economía industrial no es circular sino entrópica”

Degrowth and critical agrarian studies

Abstract: Degrowth refers to a radical politico-economic reorganisation that leads to smaller and more equitable social metabolisms. Degrowth posits that such a transition is indispensable but also desirable. However, the conditions of its realisation require more research. This article argues that critical agrarian studies (CAS) and degrowth can enrich each other. The Agrarian Question and the Growth Question should be addressed in concert. While degrowth should not fall into the ‘agrarian myth’, CAS should not embrace the ‘myth of growth’, even when green and socialist. Ideas of one philosopher and four agrarian economists are presented, with illustrations from Bhutan, Cuba and North America, hoping to offer a preliminary research agenda for ‘agrarian degrowth’.

The Journal of Peasant Studies, Volume 47 (Issue 2), January 2020, pp. 235-264

Environmental conflicts and defenders: a global overview

Recent research and policies recognize the importance of environmental defenders for global sustainability and emphasize their need for protection against violence and repression. However, effective support may benefit from a more systematic understanding of the underlying environmental conflicts, as well as from better knowledge on the factors that enable environmental defenders to mobilize successfully. We have created the global Environmental Justice Atlas to address this knowledge gap. Here we present a large-n analysis of 2743 cases that sheds light on the characteristics of environmental conflicts and the environmental defenders involved, as well as on successful mobilization strategies. We find that bottom-up mobilizations for more sustainable and socially just uses of the environment occur worldwide across all income groups, testifying to the global existence of various forms of grassroots environmentalism as a promising force for sustainability. Environmental defenders are frequently members of vulnerable groups who employ largely non-violent protest forms. In 11% of cases globally, they contributed to halt environmentally destructive and socially conflictive projects, defending the environment and livelihoods. Combining strategies of preventive mobilization, protest diversification and litigation can increase this success rate significantly to up to 27%. However, defenders face globally also high rates of criminalization (20% of cases), physical violence (18%), and assassinations (13%), which significantly increase when Indigenous people are involved. Our results call for targeted actions to enhance the conditions enabling successful mobilizations, and for specific support for Indigenous environmental defenders.

Global Environmental Change, vol. 63, July 2020

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – Blue degrowth and environmental justice on the oceans

How can we use degrowth ideas and the global movement for environmental justice to engage with the politics of the sea?

Fiddling while the planet burns? COP25 in perspective

With fires, storms, social protests, and climate strikes sweeping the world, 2019 should have been a tipping point in how the world responds to global heating. This was the backdrop to the COP25 climate change summit which took place in Madrid in December 2019. This paper assesses the outcomes of the meeting and the path towards the critically important meeting in Glasgow at the end of 2020. It analyses and explains the key points of contention over levels of ambition, the rules which should govern global carbon markets and sensitive issues such as loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change. The analysis is situated within a broader geopolitical and economic context of right-wing populism, deepening forms of marketization and financialization of responses to climate change and against a background of a world increasingly feeling the effects of the climate crisis.

Globalizations, February 2020

Frame Disputes or Frame Consensus? “Environment” or “Welfare” First Amongst Climate Strike Protesters

Present debates suppose a close linkage between economic, social, and environmental sustainability and suggest that individual wellbeing and living standards need to be understood as directly linked to environmental concerns. Because social movements are often seen as an avant-garde in pushing for change, this article analyzes climate protesters’ support for three key frames in current periods of social transformation, i.e., an “environmental”, an “economic growth”, and a “welfare” frame. The analyzed data material consists of survey responses from over 900 participants in six Global Climate Strikes held in Sweden during 2019. The article investigates the explanatory relevance of three factors: (a) political and ideological orientation, (b) movement involvement, and (c) social characteristics. The results indicate that climate protesters to a large degree support an environmental frame before an economic growth-oriented frame, whereas the situation is more complex regarding support for a welfare frame vis-á-vis an environmental frame. The strongest factors explaining frame support include social characteristics (gender) and protestors’ political and ideological orientation. Movement involvement has limited significance. The article shows how these frames form a fragment of the complexity of these issues, and instances of frame distinctions, hierarchies, and disputes emerge within the most current forms of climate change demonstrations.
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 882

De-growing environmental justice: Reflections from anti-mining movements in Eastern Europe

While the critique to economic growth is quintessential in the degrowth scholarship, one may observe a similar focus in various environmental justice movements around the world. This is particularly visible when it comes to the increasing perception that mega-development projects are both unjust and unsustainable, threatening the survival of people and environments. In this paper, we illustrate this focus by looking at two anti-mining movements in Eastern Europe (EE): Save Rosia Montana (Romania) and Krumovgrad (Bulgaria). The local movements describe open cast mining (even in the prospective phase) as potential destruction of basic sources of life (material commons such as water or crops, and community relations). The paper emphasizes a dynamic involved in doing environmental justice, or ‘de-growing EJ’: affected communities organize themselves by ‘staying in place’, producing alternative economies, organizing local democratic institutions. What potentially “grows” here, is a societal imaginary of justice on how to reproduce the socio-ecological conditions of life by protecting and re-defining traditional means of production and grassroots practices, knowledge, wealth, and values.

Ecological Economics, vol. 159, May 2019, pp. 271-278

Governance from below and environmental justice: Community water management from the perspective of social metabolism

The Mexican neoliberal political regime created a hegemonic governance model (top-down) which has tried to impose a single definition for the rules of the distribution of the costs and benefits (environmental and economic) related to the appropriation of “natural resources” (fossil fuels, forests, mineral, water, genetic). Social metabolism is a framework that highlights the contribution of indigenous communities in their struggles to build a movement of environmental justice and austerity (a regionally sensitive alternative to degrowth). By forging an indigenous communitarian identity, known as comunalidad in the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca, they are forging a new form of “bottom-up” governance. We designed key components and indicators to understand the social metabolism related to three policy objectives: a) local governance; b) reducing water vulnerability; and c) social justice. Heterodox perspectives by Marx and Illich enrich the analysis. The analysis emphasizes the importance of the social control of the “tools” needed to protect their communities and their heritage, transforming the institutions that were imposed on them. The approach is critical for constructing a research program in “ecological economics from below.”

Ecological Economics, vol. 160, June 2019, pp. 52-61

Need, Entitlement and Desert: A Distributive Justice Framework for Consumption Degrowth

Post-growth societies seek socio-ecological transformations towards a just and sustainable redistribution and reduced consumption of natural capital. There is no one universally just and ecologically sustainable way of fulfilling these redistribution and consumption objectives; it depends on the criteria used and their underlying ethical teleology. We suggest three distribution criteria, borrowed from the foundations of the Environmental Justice (EJ) movement: need, entitlement and desert. By juxtaposing and problematising the needs, entitlements and deserts of nature and society, these criteria comprise an ethical framework for consumption Degrowth praxis in communities. We present arguments for how each distribution criterion fulfils the aims articulated in the Degrowth corpus. Based on these arguments, we propose seven justice-based community action principles for redistribution under Degrowth. In our discussion of these derived principles, we demonstrate that, like EJ, Degrowth seeks consequential as well as deontological justice, underscoring their deep complementarity. Therefore, our Need-Entitlement-Desert framework may serve as a useful guiding frame to include ethical distribution considerations in societies’ pursuit of post-growth futures.

Ecological Economics, vol. 156, February 2019, pp. 327-336

A socio-metabolic perspective on environmental justice and degrowth movements

Degrowth and environmental justice movements share overarching aims of sustainability and justice and pursue them through radical social change and resistances. Both movements are diverse and comprised of groups that originate and operate in different contexts. The ever-growing metabolism of the world economy presents an obstacle to both movements’ aims, while a socio-metabolic perspective unveils very different characteristics and contexts of the specific struggles. The strategies of many environmental justice movements located at the frontiers of resource extraction are employed to resist coerced socio-ecological transition towards industrialization and to protect more customary ways of life. Movements for the degrowth of industrial metabolism tend to push for socio-ecological transformation, pursuing new ways of life and reimagined social relations in alternative societies. The overarching aims and obstacles of these movements may be shared, but their struggles, strategies and required actions are not the same. Alliances should seek advantages from this plurality of perspectives and positions within their struggles, while acknowledging potential tensions arising from these different contexts.

Ecological Economics, vol. 161, July 2019, pp. 330-333