Just Ecological Political Economy

The  latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2022 Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, provides a sobering account of the health of our Earth. According to the report, not only have ecological crises worsened, but our planet will continue to deteriorate. Describing the problems is one thing; analysing them is another. Probing why the crises persist or recur is yet a third step. Effective ways to address the problem must be found, but no solution can be effective without being just. As a political-economic approach, “just ecological political economy” considers the ecological problem to be fundamentally a reflection and projection of long-term historical and contemporary institutionalised, group-based inequalities. They are global, but these inequalities are also local, urban, national, and regional. The emphasis on inequalities echoes the aspirations of the Global South theme of the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS). Just ecological economy, along with its key principles such as “rent theft”, “Global South”, and “just land” energises HELSUS in general.

The Just Ecological Political Economy (JEPE) blog is a new space to drive the aims of the Global South theme of the HELSUS. The theme was collectively created by diverse groups working at the University of Helsinki, and seeks to further sustainability science through seeking just sustainabilities. The pursuit of holistic agendas for justice is always exciting—even exhilarating—but often it is also exacting. There are many jarring and important questions that need to be asked and explored, especially considering Global South perspectives. For example, while there is some acceptance in conventional thinking that some compensation is justified in the light of ecological injustices against the Global South—do current climate finance proposals centred on continued growth of global GDP—like the Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change—amount to ecological reparations?

Other questions are even more jarring. For instance, do current pathways lead to the great paradox of historical beneficiaries of injustice determining the price of justice? How much trust should be placed in the ‘commitment’ to just transition, which can be a highly problematic concept? The outrage and cynicism of political leaders from the South, like Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados at the Opening of the #COP26 World Leaders Summit may not be enough to solve the problems at hand, but are they justified? Crucial to addressing all these questions is accepting that ecological imperialism is a core attribute of the ecological crises. Yet—to date—what has commanded most of our attention is a drop in the ocean. The biological aspects of ecological imperialism have been demonstrated extensively in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, more research is still needed as contemporary ecological imperialism is even more complex. Current ecological imperialism reflects more than biological processes; it is an expression of the intermingling of cumulative and current political-economic forces. Are new questions about long-term institutional inequalities, power imbalances, and ecological injustice combined causes or simply correlates of current socio-ecological processes? How and why do these relationships persist? Our next blog post will explore some answers to these pressing questions.

If you would like to stay up on the activities of the JEPE blog and be alerted when we post, please follow us on Twitter @Helsinki_GS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.