The ENJUST network
International Workshop on "Narratives and Practices of Environmental Justice"
By Francesca Rosignoli, 2019-06-19

From 6 to 8 June 2019, the international workshop "Narratives and Practices of Environmental Justice" took place at the Wissenschaftszentrum in Kiel (Germany). Organized by the Institute of Geography at Kiel University, Kiel Marine Science (KMS), and Enjust Network for Environmental Justice, the workshop attracted researchers from different countries and disciplines, covering a wide range of topics in the field of Environmental Justice (EJ). (See main information and program here).

The keynote speaker, Prof. Dr. Gordon Walker of the University Lancaster, opened the workshop with an exciting lecture on the pivotal features of the EJ read through the lense of space and time. Multiple spatialities as well as temporalities of EJ have been analyzed by recalling the complexity of EJ as a research field. The intertwining of environmental and social differences as well as different subjects advocating the concept (i.e., activists, academics, and policymakers) have constituted the right premise to outline three levels of meaning of EJ:

1) The normative level focusing on justice, i.e., how things ought to be;
2) The descriptive level looking at the evidence, i.e., how things are;
3) The explanatory level analyzing the process, i.e., why and how things are.

Such three levels of meaning have offered a valuable tool to categorize the themes of reflection to EJ proposed by researchers in form of poster presentations discussed in parallel panels.

Examples of such reflections included theoretical and conceptual contributions on the justice part of EJ. In this regard, the first panel discussed relevant aspects of justice conceived in its psychological perspective (justice as perception), in its complex relation to equality (how fair is fair enough?), and in its moral dimension (justice in the distribution vs. recognition debate). In this panel, an interesting discussion emerged from the paper presented by the Environmental Justice Institute (EJI) covering questions like: what kind of justice conception is needed to describe environmental injustice in its various forms? Can it be developed from an all-encompassing theory of justice? Or, is a theory like a roadmap with different (even antagonistic) elements of justice more suitable? Answers are not easily found. The paper raised more questions than it answered, being the only reflection of this kind on the workshop.

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Ample debating time was dedicated to social movements, including insights on the interrelations between narratives legitimizing environmental unjust outcomes and social practices reproducing them. Empirical contributions presented mostly analyzed case studies in Latin American. To name just a few, these contributions encompassed urban mobility narratives and intersectionality concerns (Queering Environmental Justice), toxic tour in Ecuador, peasant communities’ struggles in Colombia, and biofuels as a contested issue in Argentina.

A whole panel was then devoted to Marine Justice, with a narrow focus on Environmental Justice in the coastal and marine realm.

Finally, the workshop gave room for public events. An inspiring exhibition on Climate Justice allowed all participants to think about the impacts of Climate Change on humanity. Hamburg-based photographer Barbara Dombrowski introduced her work with a photo installation on Environmental Justice in Kiribati, Oceania. The documentation of Kiribati has been accompanied by texts written by Prof. Silja Klepp who organized this two-day-long event and recently published research on climate refugees.

To conclude, a panel discussion brought vibrant themes such as the construction of a just transition pathway bridging knowledge of experts, action of practitioners, and activists to public attention.

Eventually, a new network for EJ researchers was introduced, called ENJUST interested in expanding the network of EJ activists and researchers, to share information, papers, and contacts. Detailed information are to be found here. ENJUST welcomes new members. To enlist, just click here and follow the instructions.

Joint activities ENJUST and EJI are envisioned to connecting our networks.

Image: © Kiel Marine Science zu Kiel