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Individual Paper: Political ecology as methodology in environmental justice activism

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Critical political and social theory has in the past been one important factor in organizing social movements, building collective political agency, and imagining political change. Today, however, connections between theory and activism are less prevalent. One example can be found in political ecology: while many political ecologists share a concern with change, little has been written or said about how political ecology can actively contribute to activist struggles. In this paper, we therefore wish to explore the possibility of building such relationships, in particular between environmental justice struggles in communities affected by industrial activities and research in political ecology. For this purpose we propose a methodological tool for analyzing industrial sources of environmental injustice based on political ecological insights about the interconnectedness of environmental and social issues. This methodology emerges from and seeks to influence communities involved in environmental justice struggles, building knowledge about political-ecological systems that can help activists imagine and prioritize modes of action. It consists of the following stages: a) analyzing different dimensions and scales of the political ecologies in which the industrial source is enmeshed; b) identifying weak points in this political-ecological system; c) considering the most effective modes of action in regard to the specific activist movement; d) mapping potential alliances with other movements or communities; e) examining and evaluating possible repercussions of the proposed modes of action. We will discuss different outcomes of the application of this methodology in relation to two case studies, Can Sant Joan (Catalunya) and Kiruna (Sápmi/Sweden), considering the connection between the potential of the methodology to contribute to efficient and meaningful action and the specific political-ecological characteristics of different types of communities. As communities oppose industrial infrastructures that are organized by production for profit, or the logic of an M-C-M’ economy, they by extension also oppose profit- and growth-oriented social metabolism. If our methodology is combined with commoning practices, industrial communities affected by environmental injustice could switch the logic of production from M-C-M’ to C-(M)-C and thereby contribute to deindustrialization and degrowth.


Day: 2018-08-22
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: ABF205
Track: Organisational and Organising Practices



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