The Environmental Justice/Justice environnementale (EJJE) seminar aims at examining the scope of the Environmental Justice analytical framework as a way to reopen the epistemological debates that Catton, Dunlap and Buttel initiated at the end of the 70s (1978) on the role played by biophysical and social factors in the analysis of environmental issues. Indeed, a substantive debate remains: should Environental Justice/Justice environnementale be seen as a new paradigm for environmental social sciences ?
The meaning and the scope of Environmental Justice are still a topic of debate in the research community. For some, it provides a collective action framework that denounces situations where low income ethno-racial minorities (Bullard 1990) are overexposed to environmental dangers and disturbances. These situations are exclusively considered through the distributive justice lenses (compensation of health and quality of life damages). According to this interpretation, the Environmental Justice scope remains and must remain limited to the North American socio-racial context in which it emerged and which gives it meaning, as well as to the decisive influence of Civil Rights (Fol et Pflieger, 2000). For others, on the contrary, the variety of mobilizations that proceed under the banner of Environmental Justice and the variety of justice issues they defend prove that this movement represents a master frame, not only for minorities of color (Taylor, 2000) but also for poor populations, which are predominant in Southern countries and are victims of major environmental damages (overexploitation of resources, destruction of mangroves, water pollution, etc.) (Martinez-Alier, 2008). Some authors refuse to adopt the restrictive definition of environmental justice that prevails in some research and government agencies. Instead, they put forward an integrative understanding of Environmental Justice (Holifield, 2001) which consequently encompasses several issues :
- Issues of social justice, not only distributive but also procedural (involvement in public policies, use of the law), of capacity (of self-determination or to benefit from a healthy and fruitful environment…), recognition (as peers, legitimate users, etc.) (Schlosberg, 2007; Taylor, 2000).
- Issues of ecological justice, which recognizes that justice among human beings cannot be achieved without justice for nature (Schlosberg, 2007).
A such, Environmental Justice would not be a resurgence of human exceptionalism. However, it could represent an alternative to the New Ecological Paradigm (Taylor, 2000). This alternative paradigm would allow for various environmental problems issues to be considered through the prism of the social asymmetries between “races” or ethnicities, social classes, gender, etc. Such a paradigm would not suggest to reduce these environmental issues to their social dimensions. Indeed, conversely to the assumption that, due to their very nature and scale, environmental issues transcend social cleavages and tend to level the resulting inequalities (Beck, 2001), this paradigm would assert that environmental issues cannot be dissociated from the structure of our society. As a consequence, the full materiality of the environmental issues would need to be redefined based on the experience of the most vulnerable social groups or populations, and their multidimensional causes and consequences would need to be identified. These issues would need to be jointly reviewed as matters of local and climate justice (Schlosberg, 2013), or even as a matter of global justice (Walzer, 2011).
Based on this debate, what implications can we establish for environmental social sciences? Several lines of reflection can already be developed in order to initiate collective thinking :
- To what extent can Environmental Justice represent a framework, or even a paradigm relevant to the understanding of environmental issues and the effects of environmental public action on diverse research fields, including when, as in Europe (Laurent, 2011), few social movements identified themselves as part of Environmental Justice (except for climate justice), until recently ?
- What reframing of environmental issues (diagnosis that includes the responsibility assignment, prognosis that specifies the possible solutions or the definition and allocation of the necessary effort) would this entail? In this framework, how do the scales relate to each other so that local and global justice issues can be jointly examined according to the environmental problems in question? Furthermore, how can social justice, health, food and ecological justice issues be associated (Schlosberg, 2007) when they have most often been addressed separately (in distinct fields), or even opposed to each other from very early on in the history of ecological movements?
- Thirdly, what contributions, in terms of position (and of reflection, particularly on commitment), objects, issues and methodologies, does the appropriation of this frame of thought represent for the research currently being carried out in Southern and Northern countries, both in urban and rural environments ? And, simultaneously, what limitations have been observed and what theoretical borrowings are necessary to make this research framework functional?
- Other approaches have led to the joint development of a critical analysis on the asymmetrical relations between Northern and Southern countries, the renewed forms of Western dominance and its environmental consequences (Political Ecology, postcolonial and decolonial approaches, etc.), as well as the diversity of the dominance forms and the power relations that are at play, including with regard to how individuals and social groups interact with the environment (Ecofeminism, intersectional approaches). While the common influences and the convergence of these analyses are evident, the schools of thought do not merge. Thus, what specific contribution can Environmental Justice make to this scientific (and often militant) landscape, and how can these different schools of thought fuel or reinforce each other?
- Finally, the conception of Environmental Justice as a framework for collective and public action has spread in Europe and in French-speaking countries over the past few years. This calls for an examination of its hybridization with the main schools of thought of ecology and associated fields (sustainable development, transition, conservation, etc.). Indeed, Environmental Justice differed strongly from them, even opposed them, in terms of its genesis, its actors and its principles. What are the circumstances of this hybridization and what are its consequences on the initial denunciation and on the way inequalities and injustices are addressed?
The seminars can address these questions through concrete study cases. Meanwhile, their purpose is to test the Environmental Justice framework on a wide variety of environmental fields and issues. They should therefore contribute to developing and bringing attention to French-speaking and European Environmental Justice research and networks and help build cooperative relationships with American researchers who are interested in our approach. Special interest will be given to the training and the integration of PhD and master students who work or wish to work within this framework, or who are interested in discussing it. The seminar program is intended to be flexible and collaborative as it is based on the idea that knowledge is built through discussions. The seminar sessions will, as often as possible, be organized simultaneously in metropolitan France, Reunion Island, Switzerland and across the CRDT network of Quebec Universities from Rimouski, so as to allow Quebec researchers and students to actively participate.
On May 18, 2021, David Schlosberg presented a recent co-authored paper (Celemajer et al., 2021) entitled “Multispecies Justice: Theories, Challenges, and a Research Agenda for Environmental Politics”. David Schlosberg is a political scientist at the University of Sydney and co-director of the Environmental Institute of Sydney. His work on the movements and theories of environmental justice (2007) and more recently on the emergence of a new movement of sustainable materialism is widely recognized (2019). In his presentation, which is discussed by Brendan Coolsaet, David Schlosberg goes over the theoretical influences of multispecies justice, presents the processes for extending recognition to new subjects of justice and the implications for future policies. The seminar is available at: https://youtu.be/4CHQqnPKah0.
On January 28, 2021, a seminar took place with Dominique Paturel on the concept of Food Democracy. The author, who recently published two books, made an effort to combine her framework with that of Food Justice. She thus contributed more extensively to the Environmental Justice movement. More particularly, she presented the basis of food democracy as a systemic approach, namely the recognition of a right to sustainable food, based on experiments and initiatives undertaken locally and stemming from social justice. In that respect, the author favors a research-action which brings her today to defend the idea of a social security of food. The recording is available at: https://youtu.be/0Dz9fv44t0g.
On November 19, 2020, a reading seminar took place with Lydie Laigle on the book co-authored with Shophie Moreau: Justice environnementale. Les citoyens interpellent le politique. (Environmental justice. Citizens call upon politics.). The author went over the justice theories before delving into environmental citizenship and what this notion encompasses, the way climate justice is perceived in the COPs, the legal and ontological confrontations as well as the unequal relations between groups that influence decisions.
On October 22, 2020, a reading seminar took place with Brendan Coolsaet on the book he edited: Environmental Justice: Key Issues. Brendan presented all the topics and issues of environmental justice that are discussed in this book whose purpose is purely educational. Environmental Justice: Key Issues – 1st Edition – Brendan Coolsaet – (routledge.com).
From July 2 to 4, 2019, the 2019 Environmental Justice Conference entlitled “Transformative Connections” was held at the University of East Anglia. B. Coolsaet and V. Deldrève coordinated two sessions on the theme “Exploring ‘francophone’ environmental justice approaches” with the following presentations:
· “Framing a climate and environmental justice ‘à la française’”, Laurence Marty – EHESS Paris.
· “Transformative connections between Francophone and Anglo-American justice approaches: What are their Contributions for the Analysis of Environmental Injustices?”, Laigle Lydie, CSTB – University of Paris-Est.
· “Environmental Justice framework and French Sociologies”, Valérie Deldrève – IRSTEA Bordeaux.
· “Justifications and senses of justice in national park negotiations: The case of Parc Adula, Switzerland”, Annina Helena Michel – University of Zurich.
· “Wastes in public housing estates’ alleys in France: guilty litter or public danger?”, Hadrien Malier – EHESS Paris.
· “The death of the rivers in South Indian Deccan context: a French approach of care lacking through a gender analysis”, Hélène Guetat-Bernard et al. – French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP).
On June 7, 2019, the “Justice environnementale et sanitaire au Nord et au Sud. Quels apports heuristiques de l’interdisciplinarité ?” seminar was held (Environmental and health justice in the North and the South. What are the heuristic contributions of interdisciplinarity?). The event was organized by C. Claeys and S. Dos Santos with the LPED-IRD-AMU partnership and took place at the Saint-Charles campus of the University of Aix-Marseille:
· “Migrant Views on the Ecological Crisis: A Bridge between Green Ideals and Environmental Justice?” Thomas Macias, Sociologist, University of Vermont, USA, IMéRA guest researcher.
· “Les espèces exotiques envahissantes, un problème de justice environnementale : le cas du Bénin” (Invasive exotic species, an environmental justice issue: the case of Benin), Tasnime Adamjy, Political scientist, IRD.
· “Penser les vulnérabilités aux inondations par le prisme de la justice environnementale : le cas du projet EVIdENCE à Abidjan” (Viewing vulnerabilities to floods through the environmental justice prism: the case of the EVIdENCE project in Abidjan), André Alla Della, geographer, IGT/UFHB, Stéphanie Dos Santos, socio-demographer LPED/IRD, Eric-Pascal Zahiri, physicist, LAPA-MF/UFHB.
· “Les noirs ne craindraient pas les piqures de moustiques … et pourtant ils en meurent : une lecture postcoloniale des iniquités de traitement entre différents territoires ultramarins et la France hexagonale” (Blacks do not fear mosquito bites… and yet they die from them: a postcolonial reading of the inequities of treatment between various overseas territories and metropolitan France), Marie Thiann Bo-Morel, sociologist, GRED, University of Reunion Island, Cécilia Claeys, sociologist, LPED, Aix-Marseille University
From May 22 to 25, 2019, a symposium on territory development took place at the University of Quebec in Rimouski: “Innovation et territoires : vers un renforcement des inégalités ?” (Innovation and territories: toward a reinforcement of inequalities?). The event was organized in partnership with the AISLF, the GRIDEQ, the ISDéT Chair and the Atisée – SSHRC research program, and with the coordination and the participation of N. Lewis on behalf of the EJJE network.
On April 5th, 2019, the “Ecoféminisme, justice et politique” seminar (Ecofeminism, justice and politics) organized by C. Lejeune took place at the University of Lausanne:
· “Ecofeminist political theory: themes, debates and applications”, Sherilyn Macgregor (University of Manchester).
· “Identité et différence chez Val Plumwood: vers un soi écologique renouvelé” (Identity and difference as seen by Val Plumwood: towards a renewed ecological self), Gérald Hess (University of Lausanne, IGD).
On March 20 and 21, 2019, a symposium on “Spatial and Environmental Justice” and “Environmental Care and Stewardship: Theoretical Dialogues among Schools of Thought” took place at the IFP (coordinated by F. Landry, H. Guétat et al.) in Pondicherry with V. Deldrève and M. Thiann-Bo Morel on behalf of the EJJE network.
On July 6, 2018, a third session was organized at INRAE Nouvelle-Aquitaine Bordeaux with Brendan Coolsaet (a member of the Global Environmental Justice research group of East Anglia and an associate professor at Lille Catholic University). First, he presented the research conducted at the University of East Anglia on environmental justice. Then, he outlined and opened the discussion to his own work: Farming Justice. Rights-based approaches to collective agrobiodiversity conservation.
Should you want to explore this topic further, here are two additional articles to which Brendan Coolsaet contributed:
Social-ecological outcomes of agricultural intensification.
Justice and Equity: Emerging research and policy approaches to address ecosystem service trade-offs.
On February 7, 2018, a second session took place at the Tampon campus of the University of Reunion Island. Its topic was environmental justice and postcolonialism. The speakers were:
- Marie Thiann-Bo-Morel (University of Reunion Island, Dimps): Lier les problématiques environnementales et postcoloniales à La Réunion (Linking environmental and post-colonial issues in Reunion Island).
- Cécilia Claeys (Aix-Marseille University, LPED): Inégalités environnementales en Guadeloupe: héritages coloniales et discriminations contemporaines (Environmental inequalities in Guadeloupe: Colonial legacy and contemporary forms of discrimination).
- Aliénor Bertrand (CNRS, UMR Dynamics of the Law, Montpellier), discussant.
On March 30, 2017, the first meeting of the network took place at INRAE Nouvelle-Aquitaine Bordeaux and at UQAR, with Kristin Reynolds (New School of New York): Actualités de justice environnementale aux Etats-Unis et son application aux systèmes alimentaires (Environmental justice news in the United States and its application to food systems). The following articles supplement this presentation:
L’agriculture urbaine aux États-Unis, une approche sociale et écologique (Urban agriculture in the United States, a social and ecological approach).
Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City.