It’s difficult to say how many conflicts stem from struggles over environmental resources. But for World Environment Day, it’s important to ask what’s the state of the world’s health, starting with the frontier realm of materials extraction and energy that feed our industrial economy. The many wars are conducted quietly but are changing societies, economies and power relations.
The EJAtlast project — or Environmental Justice Atlas — is a first attempt to catalogue these conflicts. The project is co-directed by Leah Temper and Joan Martinez Alier and coordinated for the past five years through the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, in collaboration with many other organizations and individuals from about 100 countries. So far it has mapped more than 1,700 conflicts related to extractive and productive activities, and waste disposal, and will continue in the coming years to include new areas and poorly understood cases.
Here we present 10 conflicts rooted in socio-environmental injustice: unequal distribution of the benefits and problems, lack of participation by the local community, violations of law, lack of access to justice, impunity of enterprises, pollution and corruption. These are cases in which the use and abuse of resources is compounded in a ruthless cocktail by the growing gap between the wealthy and impoverished, violations of human and environmental rights, and the system of impunity for corporations through the complicity of the state. And they affect varied geographic and thematic areas, from oil to renewable energy.