WSJUST Webinar Series: What we learned about environmental justice looking at water in mining conflicts

April 24, 2024, 16.00 - 17.00

An analysis of emblematic mining conflicts around the world [1] reveals a generalised concern over impacts on water with disruptive distributional effects. In some cases, the mining project comes to impair the access to the resource in naturally scarce areas. In other cases, there is a threat to water rich areas that have a key role in the maintenance of the hydrological cycle and its ecological functioning. The twofold impacts encompass pollution and water depletion due to overuse, with high risk both processes cooccurring. Moreover, water-related conflicts related to mining may also involve violence against local communities, as studied, e.g., in the case of small-scale fishers [2].

From a metabolic perspective, using water in such a way is unjust and ecologically harmful. It affects in particular those who depend on the water sources for their livelihoods and survival, and who often do not benefit from the (economic) profits that mining commodities yield. A redistribution across social groups—not just of water, but also of the costs and benefits of accessing it and of water-derived incomes—benefits particular groups at the expense of other groups and the environment. Power inequalities connected to race, class, gender, and regional imbalances drive the redistribution. A political ecology of water conflicts [3] reveals such an injustice, but also points out how social movements born from the conflicts creatively generate new modalities of water management and governance in the process. During the webinar, we will examine some of these modalities, in conversation with transformative demands towards environmental justice in mining conflicts. [4] [5]

You can register for this session here.

Assigned Readings:

[1]   Özkaynak, B., Rodriguez-Labajos, B (coord.). 2012. Mining Conflicts around the World: Common Grounds from Environmental Justice Perspective, EJOLT Report No. 7, 198 [read here

[2]   Rodriguez-Labajos B, Saavedra-Diaz LM, Botto-Barrios D. 2021. Filmmaking as a source of enhanced knowledge and transformation in conflicts over small-scale fisheries: the case of Colombia. Ecology and Society, 26(2):5 [read here]

[3]   Rodriguez-Labajos B, Martínez-Alier J. 2015. Political ecology of water conflicts. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews-Water (WIRES-Water) 2-5: 537-558 [read here]

[4]  Rodriguez-Labajos B, Özkaynak B. 2017. Environmental justice through the lens of mining conflicts. Geoforum, 84: 245-250 [read here]

[5]   Özkaynak B, Rodriguez-Labajos, B. 2017. Mining conflicts. In ‘Routledge Handbook of Ecological Economics: Nature and Society’ (Clive L. Spash, Ed), Routledge, Oxon, New York.

0.5 ECTS credits after participation to more than 80% of the sessions and engagement with assigned readings

About the speaker

Beatriz Rodríguez Labajos is an ecological economist and a Beatriu de Pinós researcher at the JHU-UPF Public Policy Center. She is the coordinator of the ERC- CoG project DIVERSE. Previously, she was a Marie Curie Fellow based at the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) of UC Berkeley and at the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) (2018-2022), assistant professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2005-2009), professor at the Autonomous University of the Mexico State (1997-2003) and Autonomous University of Zacatecas (1996).

Trained as an economist, she obtained MSc in Ecological Economics and environmental management (UAB), a MSc in Geographic Information Systems (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) and a PhD in Environmental Sciences at the UAB. Her research interests are the socioeconomic dimensions of biodiversity, environmental justice, creative activism, and digital humanities. Her field experience includes regions of Europe, Latin America, South East Asia and the United States.

Her publications focus on biodiversity conservation, environmental justice conflicts, water management and agro-ecosystems. She was a GEO-6 fellow for the United Nations Environment program, scientific advisor for the Catalan Water Agency, and was deputy coordinator of the EJOLT project. She currently coordinates the TALENT - CLAMOR project.