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Environmental justices

Exploring environmental and climate injustices
Examining responsibility toward each other, the environment and the planet.

Environmental justice has long been focused on the unequal protection received by poor communities, communities of colour, and Indigenous peoples across the globe, who are consistently exposed to more environmental conflicts, harms and risk. This theme examines the interlinked and entrenched impacts of social and environmental injustices on a range of populations – human and non-human alike – along with community demands for climate justice and justice in adaptation and resilience planning. 

We aim to:

  • Explore the wide range of harms experienced in environmental injustice, the ‘why’ of such harms, the entities to whom humans owe justice, principles that ought to structure justice claims, and numerous ways communities and governments can implement justice. 
  • Further our world-leading work on multispecies justice, focused on expanding ethical responsibility beyond human beings, to global relationships in which the human experience is immersed.
  • Ensure justice is evident in all the work we do, and design necessary environmental transformations that ensure just and inclusive processes, policies, and outcomes.

Featured research clusters and projects

All research clusters and projects

The speed and intensity of climate change is poised to reshape the landscape of displacement contexts in the Global South, challenging the established body of knowledge on disasters and humanitarian emergencies. While temporal and spatial tensions have always been at the core of migration scholarship, as governments and organisations develop places of refuge, climate change is placing new pressures on both temporary and permanent settlements as well as disrupting conventions of whether proximity to home environments matter.

This project will explore how the complicating factor of climate change influences the design of places of refuge and the societal institutions therein that are altered by complex displacement? The project will:

  • Locate questions of shelter and education in the growing disaster/humanitarian/migration literature around climate change, and
  • Examine the current policy documents available about places of refuge (their design and education provision) in several countries in the Global South that currently sit at the intersection of conflict and climate migration.

Contributors: Dr Susan BankiDr Aaron Opdyke

In 2020, in the wake of the bushfires in Australia and ongoing climate related catastrophes around the globe, and now in the face of the ravages being brought by COVID-19, the world looks very different to the way it did, even a year ago. Radically altered times demand radically altered ways of thinking and living. If they are to fulfil their role of supporting decent and flourishing lives, our core concepts and basic institutions need to become responsive to the realities of the moment. It is the task of universities to join with others – artists, activists, policymakers – to catalyse these transformations and help imagine how we bring them into our institutional worlds and daily lives. In a world where the Anthropocene is heightening injustices and introducing new forms of injustice, justice is one of the concepts and an area of practice crying out for wholesale renovation.

Historically, justice has most commonly been thought of the preserve of humans, and critical scholarship and advocacy principally have sought to ensure that all humans were subjects of justice. More recently, the grave harms inflicted on non-human animals and the environment have come to be understood as injustices, demanding that we ask, "what would justice across the human-more-than-human world look like and entail?" To date, scholars of human rights, animal ethics and environmental studies have worked to conceptualise justice, analyse the production of injustice, and reimagine institutions with a view to their respective subjects of concern (humans, animals, environment). The impacts of the most pressing problems of our era, however – climate change, indigenous rights, resource depletion, and industrial farming for example – cross the boundaries of these fields and subject categories.

This project is the first of its kind explicitly dedicated to multispecies justice. Over the last 18 months, the Multispecies Justice project has challenged scholars to reconceptualise justice in a way that is sufficiently capacious and fluid to accommodate the vast breadth of our multispecies world. This requires our imagining and including modes of representation and other political practices equipped to appreciate and accommodate the justice claims of all ecological beings – individuals, systems, and their relations.

Through collaboration, shared imagining and interdisciplinary, multispecies conversations, the Multispecies Justice collective has worked to produce scholarship that penetrates and transforms the three areas of research (human rights, environmental studies, human-animal studies) and scholarship in various disciplines, at the same time as defining a new field.

Looking forward, with interdisciplinary, multi-institutional and more-than-human co-operation at the core of this projects design, the Multispecies Justice collective, alongside collaborating academics, artists, activists and practitioners aim to bring desperately needed insights, perspectives and practical ideas to a world where all species and multispecies relations are beset by grave injustices.

Contributors: Professor Danielle Celermajer, Professor David SchlosbergProfessor Julia KindtAssociate Professor Thom van DoorenAssociate Professor Dinesh WadiwelProfessor Anik Waldow, Dr Christine Winter

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This three-year research project will use the experiences of the 2019-20 Black Summer fires to inform resilient, effective and targeted processes to support communities in the Shoalhaven LGA in caring for domestic and wild animals in the face of future catastrophic fires and other climate events. It seeks to address current systemic gaps, such as the lack of formal structures, to support animals and communities as they experience collective trauma and loss from the impact of fires on animals.

The project is designed to achieve several key objectives: to conduct research on the experiences of communities and factors that have facilitated/impeded efforts to produce a needs/capacities analysis; to facilitate workshops with communities of interest to identify effective support systems; and to formalise animal protection processes including community information, emergency plans and recommendations for stakeholders.

Contributors: Professor Danielle CelermajerProfessor David Schlosberg, Dr Blanche Verlie, Dr Anna Sturman, Omar Elkharouf

This project is run in partnership with Shoalhaven City Council and RMIT University's Urban Futures platform. The project is funded by a Bushfire Recovery Grant from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

This project is part of the Concepts and practices and multispecies justice cluster.

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This project aims to improve two key areas of environmental policy by investigating the meaning of environmental justice and how it is best implemented. It will generate a significant new framework of the idea of environmental justice as it is understood in Australia – including climate justice, food justice, and just transition – and offer innovative research, engagement, and policy recommendations.

The central aim of this project is to foster more just social and environmental outcomes by identifying opportunities to improve environmental justice theory and its integration into policy, particularly around both urban food and energy transition policies in Australia. Overall, the project should provide the benefit of the development of more just policies on two key environmental issues facing Australia.

Contributors: Professor David Schlosberg, Associate Professor Lauren Rickards, Dr Rebecca Pearse, Hannah Della Bosca, Oli Moraes

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The proposed Global Humanities Institute on Climate Justice and Problems of Scale will explore climate change as a social, historical, and cultural force that transforms all lives, but does so in an uneven and often unequal fashion.

The Institute is underpinned by the premise that problems of scale make it difficult to understand the differing ways in which climate change affects individual lives, specific communities, and the earth. Comprehending climate change and acting to mitigate its damages demands a major cognitive stretch in several dimensions.

Accordingly, Climate Justice and Problems of Scale is designed to develop what Zach Horton refers to as “scale literacy”. By building on the interdisciplinary scalar turn to cultivate scale literacy, the Institute will generate more nuanced and holistic understandings of the relationship between the effects of climate change and the intensification of injustices in the social, political, and cultural spheres.

The Institute is being developed in partnership with The Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes, University of Texas, Arizona State University, Carnegie Mellon University, American University Beirut and University of Pretoria.

Contributors: Professor David Schlosberg, Associate Professor Thom van Dooren, Dr Christine Winter

Theme lead

David Schlosberg

Theme lead

Danielle Celermajer