Mapping ecological conflicts

Eco Jesuit

env-maps

Paula Sendín
Many countries are affected by multiple ecological conflicts, often generated by the increasing demand for energy and natural resources. To spatially illustrate these ecological conflicts globally and the spaces of resistance, the Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT) project launched the Atlas of Environmental Justice, an online interactive online mapping platform detailing around 1,000 environmental conflicts (and growing) around the world.

The EJOLT is a project of the European Union that brings “science and society together to catalog ecological distribution and confront environmental injustice” and the EJ Atlas is based on the work of over 100 people from 23 universities and environmental justice organizations in 18 countries plus dozens of independent collaborators from all around the world who joined to create this huge and valuable resource.

Professor Joan Martínez-Alier from the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology- Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) coordinates the work. “The Atlas illustrates how ecological conflicts are increasing around the world, driven by material demands fed primarily by the rich and middle class subsections of the global population,” says Martínez-Alier.

The Atlas by itself and the group of investigators do not solve conflicts but contribute information on who are the actors, drivers, and structural patterns behind the conflicts. To that end, the Atlas allows users to search and filter 100 fields and to browse by commodity, company, country, and type of conflict.

There are 10 main categories where the environmental conflicts are mapped: nuclear, mineral ores and building extractions, waste management, biomass and land conflicts, fossil fuels and climate justice and energy, water management, infrastructure and built environment, tourism recreation, biodiversity conservation conflicts, and industrial and utilities.

The database also contains information on the investors, the drivers for these deals, basic data, sources of conflict, project details, conflict and mobilization, impacts, outcome, references to legislation, academic research, videos, and pictures. With one click, a user can find a global snapshot of nuclear, waste or water conflicts, or the places where communities have an issue with a particular mining or chemical company.

More than 300 cases detailed on the Atlas are in Latin America. The largest number of cases documented is in Colombia with 72 cases. Other countries in the region with high numbers of cases include Brazil with 58, Ecuador (48), Argentina (32), Peru (31), and Chile (30).

The Atlas collects stories from around the world of communities struggling for environmental justice and makes it easier to find information, connect with other groups working on related issues, and increase the visibility of environmental conflicts. It can also be used for teaching and advocacy work.

The EJOLT project with its partners and external collaborators will also report cases and cover the “blank areas” (for example Russia and China) by next year. “So for the moment we are only able to get some results from the data collected so far,” said Daniela del Bene, co-editor of the EJ Atlas. “We notice that the highest number of conflicts reported from our collaborators refer to mineral extraction and these conflicts are also those reported as of highest intensity or violence,” she added.

Social movements, also called environmental justice organizations or EJOs, are of crucial importance. The aim of the mapping environmental injustice is precisely to connect EJOs and struggles. Daniela Del Bene said that this is already happening with some groups in Spain for example, and hopes it could be the case for other areas and world regions. The scale at which this might happen is not easy to guess. Probably it will be easier at national level, but the co-editor considered that “if it comes to international legislation or a company’s project or policy, alliances are more likely to be established.”