The world's top 10 battles for environmental justice


The Environmental Justice Atlas is an international collaboration that tracks land and energy conflicts around the world. Researcher Julie Snorek from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain reports.


In Delhi, middle class residents and informal recyclers joined together to oppose the privatisation of waste management.
In Delhi, middle class residents and informal recyclers joined together to oppose the privatisation of waste management.
EPA

Environmental justice activism is to this age what the workers’ movement was for the industrial age - one of the most influential social movements of its time. Yet, despite its consistent progress since the 1970s, environmental justice protests seem to get lost in the morass of information on broader environmental issues.

In contrast, labour conflicts, including strikes and lock-outs, carry such gravity that the International Labour Organization tracks these on a systematic basis. As more communities are refusing to allow the destruction and contamination of their land, water, soil and air, these, in turn, deserve to be counted.

The Environmental Justice Atlas (EJAtlas), an inventory of social conflicts around environmental issues, fills that gap. It is funded by two successive European research projects, through a collective effort of scientists and activists. It records the failures and successes of the worldwide movement for environmental justice.

The project is directed and coordinated by Leah Temper, Daniela Del Bene and Joan Martínez-Alier at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. It has collected and categorised about 2500 ecological distribution conflicts. These focus on who gains and who loses in development processes, arguing that these movements play a fundamental role in redefining and promoting sustainability.

In honour of World Environment Day, on June 5th, some of the highlights of the most pertinent findings, stemming from the ten most critical categories of environmental distribution conflicts facing the world today are shown. These are listed in order of most-catalogued cases in the EJAtlas. But due to the nature of the project, this is not indicative of its global significance.

The top ten environmental conflicts

Land grabbing – 600+ conflicts

Booming palm oil production is behind a land-grabbing surge for plantations, which threatens communities. Palm oil is now in half of all packaged products sold in the supermarket. These plantations replace food crops, deprive farmers from their land, increase slave labour, cause environmental destruction like deforestation, water pollution, infertile soil and fires. Grassroots activist networks achieved temporary suspensions of further expansion of what they call green deserts in Honduras, Colombia, México, Indonesia and Myanmar.

Renewable energy conflict – 31 wind; 326 water infrastructure conflicts

Renewables are necessary in a post-carbon world, but mega dams like Narmada in India and mega wind projects in Mexico, Kenya, India are triggering conflicts.

Methane emissions and cost overruns are hidden behind a twisted sustainability discourse to justify a new wave of dams, especially in the Himalayas, Amazon basin, Balkans and Africa. In response, some rural communities are creating cooperative wind energy models as alternatives to the corporate schemes. These in turn reshape global production and consumption patterns. Also, communities expose the injustice of large-scale dam projects and redefine their own energy transformations.

Mega-mining – 270 conflicts

New technologies, highly polluting chemicals and massive amounts of water accompany mega-mining expansion in Latin America and Western Africa. Examples of this is seen in bauxite or iron in Guinea, gold in Burkina Faso, Senegal and Ghana). Resistance in Latin America and Africa is strong. Often, there is high participation and leadership of women. Affected communities are developing new local initiatives that are more sustainable.

Unburnable fuels – 178 conflicts

The fossil fuel industry, faced with declining stocks, depends on unconventional means and locations of extraction. These extend to oil sand drilling and fracking to Arctic drilling and deep water petroleum sources. It has caused contamination of fresh water supplies, devastation of marine systems, seismic activity and global warming.

This gave rise to a Blockadia movement of direct action. Blockadia connects the various struggles to highlight the global and local threats posed by oil, coal and gas extraction. Massive oppositions have resulted in moratoria on off-shore drilling, litigation over continued oil exploration, bans on fracking, the removal of gas pipelines, and the halting of oil and gas operations.

Trash economy – 126 conflicts

Alliances of grassroots organisations are protecting the health and livelihoods of those living near waste sites by facing down a multi-billion dollar waste industry. GAIA, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives unites communities resisting incinerators. The Basel Action Network tries to halt the flow of hazardous waste like e-waste from being shipped from high-consumption countries to the Global South. The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers defends the informal recycling sector in more than 28 countries. In Delhi, middle class residents and informal recyclers joined together to oppose the privatisation of waste management and the resulting introduction of incineration.

The Environmental Justice Atlas is a collection of cases of communities struggling for environmental justice around the world.
The Environmental Justice Atlas is a collection of cases of communities struggling for environmental justice around the world.
EJAtlas website

Sand mafias – 82 conflicts

Illegal sand mining has ten times more economic value than all wildlife crime. The causes of the surge in demand for sand are attributed to a number of reasons. They range from booming building industry to land expansion to mining of ilmenite or zircon at beaches.

India is a particular hotbed of sand mining conflicts, from beach sand mining in the South to riverbed sand mining in the Himalayas. Hundreds have been killed by various branches of the sand mafia, including activists and investigative journalists.

Fighting for fish – 77 conflicts

The industrialisation of fishing since the 1950s is causing stock collapses and extinctions. Small-scale fishing communities are reclaiming their rights for access to and control over aquatic commons. The World Forum of Fisher People and World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers aim to stop fisheries injustices. Some examples are the ones by intensive fish farms in Turkey or in Chile, big port projects in India and polluting industries in Ecuador.

China rising up – 76 conflicts

Despite government restrictions, China is swept by large-scale protests against the highly flammable petrochemical Paraxylene, used to make plastic and polyester. Protests in Xiamen in 2007 stopped the construction of a plant. Protests spread to Dalian, Chengdu, Shanghai and elsewhere. Together with protests against incinerators, wastewater issues, and coal-fired power plants for example, a new type of a-political mass mobilisation has emerged.

Nuclear nightmares – 57 conflicts

Nuclear power is criticised because of risks illustrated by accidents in Three Mile Island (1979)], Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011)]. Particularly controversial were the more risky fast breeder reactors in Creys-Malville in France, where an activist lost his life. In Kalkar, Germany and Monju, Japan there were also serious risks. These were stopped but struggles at other places, such as Kalpakkam in India are ongoing. Accidents and grassroots movements have succeeded in slowing down the nuclear industry, leading to phase outs in many countries.

Pesticide popularity – 23 conflicts

Despite the impact of pesticides on the environment and human health where it can cause cancer and kill birds, its use in farming is increasing - especially in developing countries. Sadly, it’s usually only when the impact of these toxins have become irreversible that people demand justice for the related health challenges.

In Argentina the use of glyphosate in soybean cultivation is being disputed. In Asia, Latin America and Africa, the use of a nematicide to kill worms threatening banana plantations is being fought. These remain uphill battles.

The environmental justice movement

The case studies and database provided by the EJAtlas support the legitimacy and provide evidence to support the environmental justice movement.

The EJAtlas shows that people all over the world, organised in groups and networks, struggle for the kind of world they want to create, and in doing so, are promoting sustainability. Environmental conflicts are not disruptions to smooth governance, fixable with market solutions and technology. People are expressing grievances, aspirations and political demands. They should not be repressed; they should lead us to a better world for all.

The ConversationThe EnvJustice research project studies and contributes to the global environmental justice movement. The EnvJustice team is composed by Sofia Avila, Daniela del Bene, Federico Demaria, Irmak Ertör, Juan Liu, Joan Martinez-Alier, Sara Mingorria, Grettel Navas, Camila Rolando Mazzuca, Brototi Roy, Arnim Scheidel, Julie Snorek (Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Autonomous University of Barcelona) and Nick Meynen (European Environmental Bureau)

This article was originally published on The Conversation and is republished here with permission. Read the original article.

The conversation.png?ixlib=rails 2.1
The Conversation is an independent, not-for-profit media outlet that uses content sourced from the academic and research community.
  1. http://www.ilo.org/global/lang--en/index.htm
  2. http://ejatlas.org/
  3. http://worldenvironmentday.global/
  4. https://ejatlas.org/about
  5. https://ejatlas.org/type/land-acquisition-conflicts
  6. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/sugarcane-cultivation-and-oil-palm-plantation-in-polochic-valley-guatemala
  7. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/oil-palm-plantations-in-the-bajo-aguan-honduras
  8. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/south-korean-conglomerate-posco-daewoo-oil-palm-expansion-indonesia
  9. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/proyecto-minero-el-corpus-honduras
  10. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/oil-palm-and-fires-in-riau-indonesia
  11. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/jeannette-kawas-fernandez-case-honduras
  12. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/hacienda-las-pavas-colombia
  13. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/redd-pilot-lacandon-jungle-chiapas-mexico
  14. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/siberut-oil-palm-conflict-west-sumatra-indonesia
  15. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/mspp-oil-palm-plantation-tanintharyi-region-myanmar
  16. https://ejatlas.org/type/windmills
  17. https://ejatlas.org/type/dams-and-water-distribution-conflicts
  18. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/dams-on-the-narmada-river-india
  19. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/wind-power-plants-in-oaxaca-mexico
  20. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/lake-turkana-wind-power-project-kenya
  21. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/wind-farm-cdm-project-in-kalpavalli-community
  22. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/environmental-conservation/article/hydroelectric-dams-in-the-brazilian-amazon-as-sources-of-greenhouse-gases/B02E5246EF25F78DD96E05E9EBCC79CD
  23. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513010926
  24. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/pancheswar-dam-uttarakhand-india
  25. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/sao-luiz-do-tapajos-hydroelectric-dam-brazil
  26. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/ten-hydro-power-plants-on-the-river-ibar-serbia
  27. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/mambilla-hydropower-station-project-nigeria
  28. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/movement-against-industrial-renewable-energy-resources-res-in-chios
  29. https://www.rmi.org/news/blog_2015_11_02_the_renewable_energy_market_is_evolving_heres_how/
  30. https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/100-percent-renewable-energy-overconsumption-inequality
  31. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11625-018-0558-1
  32. http://ejatlas.org/featured/mining-latam
  33. http://ejatlas.org/featured/mining-latam
  34. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/bauxite-mining-boke-guinea
  35. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/simandoun-mine
  36. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/gold-and-water-rush-in-burkina-fasos-essakane-mine
  37. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/sabodala-gold-project-senegal
  38. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/gold-min
  39. http://ejatlas.org/featured/mujeres
  40. https://womin.org.za/
  41. https://www.redlatinoamericanademujeres.org/historia
  42. https://ejatlas.org/type/oil-and-gas-exploration-and-extraction
  43. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/total-moil-bemolonga-tar-sands-madagascar
  44. https://ejatlas.org/featured/fracking-frenzy
  45. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/shells-drilling-for-oil-in-the-arctic
  46. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/greenpeace-in-new-zealand
  47. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/fracking-and-flooding-in-fares-egypt
  48. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/mauritanias-offshore-oil-production
  49. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/earthquakes-conflict-linked-to-fracking-nuevo-leon-mexico
  50. https://ejatlas.org/featured/blockadia
  51. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/belizean-population-against-offshore-drilling-blue-hole
  52. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/the-people-versus-arctic-oil
  53. https://ejatlas.org/featured/fracking-frenzy
  54. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/fracking-voelkersen-germany
  55. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/anti-fracking-uprising-in-ain-salah
  56. https://ejatlas.org/commodity/industrial-waste
  57. http://www.no-burn.org/
  58. http://www.ban.org/
  59. http://globalrec.org/
  60. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/okhla-waste-to-energy-plant-india
  61. https://ejatlas.org/commodity/sand-gravel
  62. https://theecologist.org/2018/feb/08/they-stole-beach-major-mafia-almost-nobody-wants-talk-about
  63. https://theecologist.org/2017/may/09/concrete-or-beaches-worlds-sand-running-out-global-construction-booms
  64. https://scroll.in/article/836336/the-new-oil-the-global-battle-for-sand-is-getting-ugly
  65. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/beach-minerals-sand-mining-in-tamil-nadu-india
  66. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/illegal-sand-mining-in-the-chakki-riverbed-himachal-pradesh
  67. https://www.wired.com/2015/03/illegal-sand-mining/
  68. https://ejatlas.org/type/aquaculture-and-fisheries
  69. http://worldfishers.org/
  70. http://worldfisherforum.org/
  71. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/tuna-fattening-farms-in-sigacik-bay-turkey
  72. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/industrial-mining-threat-in-the-archipelago-of-chiloe-chile
  73. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/peoples-movement-against-enayam-international-container-transshipment-terminal
  74. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/salango-comuna-against-pesquera-la-polar-ecuador
  75. https://ejatlas.org/country/china
  76. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/controversy-over-planned-paraxylene-px-plant-in-xiamen-fujian-china
  77. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/the-fujia-petrochemical-paraxylene-px-plant-protest-in-dalian-liaoning-china
  78. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/protest-05032013130114.html
  79. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/protest-against-gaoqiao-paraxylene-px-plant-relocating-in-jinshan-shanghai-china
  80. https://ejatlas.org/type/nuclear-power-plants
  81. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/three-mile-island-united-states
  82. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/chernobyl-disaster
  83. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/fukushima
  84. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/creys-malville-france
  85. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/kalkar-a-bad-joke-germany
  86. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/the-fast-breeder-reacton-monju-japan
  87. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/kalpakkams-fast-breeder-reactor-india
  88. https://ejatlas.org/commodity/pesticides
  89. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1018413522959
  90. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2401613?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
  91. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/monsanto-and-soy-monocultures-argentina
  92. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/philippine-farmworkers-poisoned-by-dbcp-pesticide
  93. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/afectados-por-el-nemagon-nicaragua
  94. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/ivory-coast-farmworkers-alleging-that-they-became-sterile-from-exposure-to-dbcp
  95. https://futurism.com/environmental-injustice-north-carolina/
  96. https://futurism.com/environmental-injustice-north-carolina/
  97. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11625-018-0563-4
  98. http://envjustice.org/
  99. http://theconversation.com
  100. https://theconversation.com/tracking-the-battles-for-environmental-justice-here-are-the-worlds-top-10-97616
Latest Stories
MoreMore Articles