Environmental Justice and Economic Degrowth: An Alliance between Two Movements

Joan Martı´nez-Alier*

Ecological Economics, Social Metabolism, and Political Ecology
The flows of energy and materials in the world economy have never been as large
as they are today. This increased metabolism causes more and more conflicts on
resource extraction and waste disposal and is giving rise to a movement for
environmental justice around the world (Agyeman, et al. 2003; Carruthers 2008;
Pellow and Brulle 2005; Pellow 2007; Roberts 2007; Walker 2009). Even an
economy without growth, if based on fossil fuels, would need to obtain new sources
of energy at the ‘‘commodity frontiers’’ (Moore 2000) because energy is not recycled.
The words ‘‘environmental justice’’ were initially used in the United States in the
early 1980s for local complaints against ‘‘environmental racism,’’ i.e., the
disproportionate pollution burdens in areas primarily inhabited by disadvantaged
ethnic groups (Bullard 1990, 2005; Pulido 1996; Camacho 1998; Cole and Foster
2001; Carmin and Ageyman 2010). Now the term is applied to spontaneous
movements and organizations that resist extractive industries and organize against
pollution and climate change (Martı´nez-Alier 2002) anywhere in the world. It also
includes the networks or coalitions they form across borders (Bandy and Smith
2005). Environmental justice speaks to both intragenerational and intergenerational
distribution. It addresses non-distributional dimensions of justice, such as recognition
of the legitimacy of social actors to speak out in protest (Schlosberg 2007) and
inclusion of all who are affected by resource extraction and pollution (Agarwal
2001).

jma-degrowth-and-ej

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