Environmental Justice Conference 2019
Transformative Connections
By Francesca Rosignoli, 2019-07-07

An International Conference entirely dedicated to the Environmental Justice has been held at University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich, UK, from 2nd July to 4th July 2019. The event called Transformative Connections was organized by UEA's Global Environmental Justice group, with support from colleagues on their advisory board.

The keyword of the Conference was definitely connection. Explored in three fields of application such as scales, movements, and worldviews, it has allowed achieving a lively debate among participants. The numbers speak for themselves. Four keynote speakers (David Schlosberg, Leah Temper, Asad Rehman, Madhu Sarin), eight sessions each of them made up of five parallel panels, more than one hundred delegates, 76 pages full Conference abstract book (available to view online here), and then workshops, reflective walks, and screening of film 'Toxic Playground', followed by video message from the Directors. (See the program here).

Hannah Gray, the Global Environmental Justice Coordinator, has certainly organized an environmentally just conference. All details aimed at making the event sustainable. First, the venue that hosted the event. The Enterprise Centre, a low-carbon building built with local renewable materials, is one of the UKs most sustainable buildings and the first large scale building in the UK to target both Passivhaus Certification and BREEAM Outstanding. Second, detailed instructions provided for participants to make the event plastic-free. To this end, delegates were encouraged to bring along reusable bottles for drinking water. Those latter could be refilled at water fountains in the Enterprise Centre. Third, access to the event was ensured for all through online streaming available at www.youtube.com/devschooluea, or by following #EJ2019 @GEJGroup_UEA on Twitter.

Finally, the right food (entirely vegetarian) was served by avoiding waste generation at source.

Two keynote speakers, Madhu Sarin and David Schlosberg, opened the Conference during the plenary session on the first day. Madhu Sarin gave a talk on a transformative movement for restoring justice in India's forest. She pointed out the massive evictions of forests dwellers and the obstacles and successes of the campaign for survival & dignity to claim the right to survive with dignity. It was a very inspiring talk encouraging activists to combat the slow violence we might suffer with decades of patient resistance. David Schlosberg talked about the connection and misconnection of environmental justice and sustainable materialism. Two pivotal aspects were discussed: 1) discourse on EJ in sustainable materialist movements; 2) material participation as a practice and how to bridge movements. Do not miss his forthcoming book titled Sustainable Materialism presented in his talk. A new frontier of EJ exploring its connection with sustainable materialist movements will certainly start further discussions as well push forward the debate on EJ.

The second day proceeded by talks delivered by the other two keynote speakers, Leah Temper and Asad Rehman:

As for the main topics discussed in the parallel panels, the francophone environmental justice approach deserves attention. It brought a different perspective on EJ as well as proposals to connect it to the Anglo-American justice approach. It is promising the growing number of researchers connecting EJ to themes such as gender, power relations, forests, conservation, indigenous rights, capabilities, resistance-centered perspective on transformations, and worldviews supported by different social movements all around the Globe.

By this vibrant, ultra-green Conference, the University of East Anglia has definitely demonstrated to walk the talk. Hope to see more events ever so well conducted.

Image: © Rosignoli