Land, Water, Air and Freedom


Land, Water, Air and Freedom

The Making of World Movements for Environmental Justice

9781035312764 Edward Elgar Publishing
Joan Martínez-Alier, Professor of Economics and Economic History, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, recipient of the Balzan Prize in 2020 and the Holberg Prize in 2023
Publication Date: 2023 ISBN: 978 1 03531 276 4 Extent: 798 pp
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This ground-breaking book makes visible the global counter-movement for environmental justice, combining ecological economics and political ecology. Using 500 in-depth empirical analyses from the Atlas of Environmental Justice, Martínez-Alier analyses the commonalities shared by environmental defenders and offenders respectively.

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This ground-breaking book makes visible the global counter-movement for environmental justice, combining ecological economics and political ecology. Using 500 in-depth empirical analyses from the Atlas of Environmental Justice, Martínez-Alier analyses the commonalities shared by environmental defenders and offenders respectively.

Each narrative emphasizes the diverse vocabularies, iconographies, and valuation languages of poor and Indigenous activists without losing sight of the global scale of climate action and biodiversity loss. Revealing the circularity gap at the centre of the industrial economy, the book focuses on the frontiers of commodity extraction and waste disposal. Alongside exploring protagonists and geographies of resistance, chapters delve into corporate irresponsibility, unequal trade, and feminist neo-Malthusianism. Although grassroots movements for socio-economic sustainability are deeply diverse, there are global patterns of action and empowerment.

This book will be essential reading for students and scholars of environmental social sciences and humanities, anthropology, geography, international relations, and ecology. It will also help activists engaged in the movements for environmental justice.
Critical Acclaim
‘In what may serve as a capstone to his distinguished career, Joan Martínez-Alier gives us both a monument to environmental justice scholarship and a practical guide to roughly 500 environmental justice campaigns over the last two centuries. Land, Water, Air and Freedom makes a strong case that one of the characteristics of our age is a worldwide environmental justice movement. It is gathering pace, but often in the shadows and out of plain sight, because it is most vigorous on the remote commodity frontiers of the industrial economy – where oil drilling, copper mining, or timber felling take place. This book makes clear both the most fundamental feature of the industrial economy – entropy – and the determination of grandmothers, sharecroppers, housewives, fisherfolk, mineworkers, and many others, to resist. It belongs on the shelf of everyone concerned with environmental justice, environmental politics, environmental sociology, environmental history, or the state of their planet.’
– J.R. McNeill, Georgetown University, US

‘Like no other person, Joan Martínez-Alier has grasped the global pattern through which the unequal resource flows required for the unsustainable metabolism of the Global North provokes countless ecological distribution conflicts throughout the Global South. His pioneering syntheses of ecological economics and political ecology combine historical erudition and international environmental activism with an irrefutable materialist critique of conventional economics. He shows that concerns with global social justice must imply transdisciplinary consideration of the physics of social metabolism. Drawing on hundreds of cases from the famous Environmental Justice Atlas that he initiated, Martínez-Alier argues that there is a global environmental justice movement currently challenging capitalist resource extraction and the mainstream obsession with economic growth. He is unique in having established dialogue and convergence between thousands of environmental justice activists from all over the world and academic researchers from several fields. His international network of contacts with activists follows naturally from his experiences of field research in agrarian studies, which gave him an extensive familiarity with the conditions of rural populations across the globe. This book, like the EJ Atlas, will indeed serve as a “loudspeaker” and an invaluable resource for activists and researchers alike.’
– Alf Hornborg, Lund University, Sweden

‘With Land, Water, Air and Freedom Joan Martínez-Alier, one of the pioneers of ecological economics and political ecology, emerges with his team as the premier cartographer of environmental conflicts worldwide. This highly accomplished book is many things at once: a vivid account of a lifetime’s intellectual and political journey, a monumental compendium of ecological struggles, and an inspiring ontological reframing of the economy beyond growth, based on the pluriverse of modes of life and languages of valuation embodied in the incredible global ferment of popular praxes against industrial extraction. Other worlds and futures are possible – indeed, they are underway. This book is bound to become an indispensable resource for those committed to the profound socioecological transitions demanded from our troubling time.’
– Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina, US

‘This book is the last door of a trilogy, as the author states, that opens a passage from the nearest to the remotest ecologies of the world transformed into commodity frontiers. It forcefully proves that environmental justice movements are at the same time movements for life and freedom. Joan Martínez-Alier''s activism and solidarity-based work in the late 20th and early 21st centuries is to a large extent comparable to what Marx achieved in the second half of the 19th century. Both trace the transformations unfolded by the commodity form: Marx''s trilogy built a socio-historical critique of political economy, revealed class conflict as a social distribution and valuation conflict, and recognized the class struggle for social justice. Martínez-Alier''s trilogy has built an ecological critique of economics, revealed ecological distribution and valuation conflicts, and recognized the world-movements for environmental justice.’
– Zehra Taşdemir Yaşın, University of Ankara, Turkey

‘Twenty years after the publication of the now classic The Environmentalism of the Poor, Joan Martínez-Alier, the most outstanding environmental justice scholar of our time has gifted humanity with a new book: Land, Water, Air and Freedom - The Making of World Movements for Environmental Justice. With emphasis on the political force that aspires to bring social justice through environmental struggles, this tour de force is a product of many decades of Joan''s deep commitment to environmental justice through the scholar-activist method of work.’
– Saturnino M. Borras Jr., International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), the Netherlands

‘Land, Water, Air and Freedom is a tour de force, deftly weaving together insights from decades of research on ecological distribution conflicts and the global environmental justice movement. Spanning an impressive range of regions and issues, Professor Martínez-Alier''s inspiring research sheds light on the complex power relations and socio-ecological processes surrounding environmental justice struggles. This vital book challenges dominant economic paradigms, identifies alternative pathways toward wellbeing, sustainability, and justice, and offers important tools for activism.’
– Alice Mah, University of Glasgow, UK

‘While much research has addressed environmental conflicts as post-materialist politics, this precious volume provides much needed information on the environmentalism of the poor. It not only provides an extremely rich description of the many struggles for a future which is socially and environmentally just taking place all over the world, but also develops an innovative theoretical framework to analyse an emerging global movement for environmental justice.’
– Donatella Della Porta, Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy

‘Drawing on a treasure trove of cases from the acclaimed EJ Atlas, renowned ecological economist Joan Martínez-Alier has produced a breathtaking study of ecological distribution conflicts around the world. This book will fundamentally transform our thinking and actions concerning environmental justice in the 21st century.’
– David N. Pellow, University of California, Santa Barbara, US
Contents: Preface 1 Introduction: comparative political ecology – the EJAtlas, geographical and thematic perspectives 2 Japan: toxic archipelago 3 The Philippines: extractivism and violence 4 Women environmental defenders killed around the world 5 Taiwan’s environmental movement 6 China: political ecology with Chinese characteristics – limits to eco-compensation (with Dr Juan Liu) 7 The Arctic, a growing commodity extraction frontier, with Ksenija Hanaček 8 India: Odisha, one of the states which are victims of “extractivism” 9 India: Kerala and Tamil Nadu 10 The world anti-nuclear movement since the 1970s 11 Biodiversity conservation: “militarized conservation” vs “convivial conservation” 12 East Africa: Kenya and Tanzania, wildlife and human livelihoods 13 South East Africa: Madagascar and Mozambique; transnationals and BINGOs 14 Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea: “we thought it was oil but it was blood” 15 Sand mining for metallic minerals: a new commodity frontier, with Arpita Bisht 16 Blockadia and climate justice: LFFU movements 17 The Andean countries and Southern Cone 18 Mesoamerica and the Caribbean: from Zacatecas to Neo Zapatismo 19 Brazil and the Guianas: iron ores, tailings dams and land conflicts 20 Working-class environmentalism 21 Agrarian justice and human ecology 22 Religious groups as environmental activists 23 The Iberian Peninsula: transboundary conflicts 24 The United States: the cradle of environmental justice against environmental racism 25 Indigenous revival and resistance around the world 26 Preciosities vs bulk commodities in ecologically unequal trade 27 Corporate social irresponsibility and systematic lack of environmental liability 28 Environmental activism, uncertain risks and post-normal science 29 Population and resources: feminism and neo-Malthusianism, with Eduard Masjuan 30 Conclusion: is there a global environmental justice movement? References Index
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