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  • 1. J. Martinez-Alier, H. Healy, L. Temper, M. Walter, B. Rodriguez-Labajos, J.F.Gerber, M. CondeICTA, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, 08193 Spainjoan.martinez.alier@uab.catBetween science and activism: Learning and teachingecological economics with environmental justice organizationsABSTRACTActivists are driven by interests and values, making use only of the evidence thatsupports their arguments. They are not dispassionate as scientists are supposed to be.There is therefore something antithetical between science and activism. Nevertheless,environmental justice organizations (EJOs) and their networks have accumulated largestocks of activist knowledge of great value to the field of ecological economics, whichsometimes becomes available to academics and influences public policies. Vice-versa,some concepts and methodologies developed in ecological economics are useful inpractice to EJOs. In this paper, we use the data and knowledge built through theEuropean Çommission funded projects CEECEC (Civil Society Engagement withEcological Economics) and EJOLT (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilitiesand Trade) to understand the relations and mutual influences between academic fieldsand theories such as ecological economics and political ecology and, on the other hand,activist practice in environmental justice organizations. Some work by scholars andresearchers in ecological economics and political ecology can be perceived as activism-led science while environmental justice organizations sometimes carry out science-ledactivism. A dialectic and dynamic relation is at the center of the interactions betweenacademics and practitioners focused on ecological distribution conflicts. An interactiveprocess exist between knowledge production and knowledge use, in which one helpsfurther the other thanks to the relations built over time between scholars andpractitionners.Key words: activist knowledge, activist-led science, science-led activism, ecologicaldebt, ecologically unequal trade, environmental liabilities, post-normal science, GDP ofthe Poor, economic degrowth, political ecology, CEECEC, EJOLT. 1
  • 2. IntroductionAndrew Stirling wrote in 2006 for the European Commission, that there was a "movetowards an emerging paradigm of ‘co-operative research’. This is a new form ofresearch process which involves both researchers and non-researchers in close co-operative engagement. It encompasses a full spectrum of approaches, frameworks andmethods, from interdisciplinary collaboration through stakeholder negotiation totransdisciplinary deliberation and citizen participation" (Stirling, 2006). Support fromthe European Commission for worldwide cooperative or collaborative research withcivil society organizations (CSO) under the Science in Society programmes was awelcome novelty resting on Stirling’s approach. However, the practice of cooperative orcollaborative research is not new. Many academics work together regularly withbusiness firms and with public administration, and sometimes with non-governmentalorganizations. And vice-versa, CSOs look for support from academics. For instance, thefirst reports on the State of the Environment in India were put together in the 1980s by aCSO, the Centre for Science and the Environment (CSE), drawing on the knowledge ofboth activist organizations and academics across the sub-continent.This article uses the case studies of two European projects of cooperative research inecological economics between CSOs and academic partners to analyze examples ofactivist-led science and of science-led activism. The two projects (one running from2008 to 2010 and one from 2011to 2014) are reviewed in this article that analyzes dataobtained when carrying out or preparing both projects.Most CSOs involved are EJOs (environmental justice organizations). Suchorganizations and the networks they form, work towards addressing ecologicaldistribution conflicts at different scales, backing struggles against unfair resourceextraction and waste disposal. This is a type of environmentalism different from“wilderness conservationism”. It is the “environmentalism of the poor”, meaning thedefence of the environment to ensure the livelihood of those directly involved inecological distribution conflicts. The common thread in both projects is that activistscan profit from the teachings of academic ecological economics, and moreover, thatecological economists can learn from concepts pushed by activist organizations (such asthe ecological debt, food sovereignty, corporate accountability, economic degrowth).Ecological economics is seen as closely linked to political ecology. By political ecologywe understand the study of ecological distribution conflicts (Martinez-Alier, 2002),while ecological economics is a transdisciplinary field born in the 1980s (Costanza,1991, 1996, Ropke 2004, Martinez-Alier and Ropke, 2008, Spash 2009) out of aconfluence of interests between ecologists who studied the use of energy in the humaneconomy (Odum, 1971, Jansson, 1984), and dissident economists (Daly, 1968, 1973)who followed Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1966, 1971) and Kenneth Boulding (1968).Work by K.W. Kapp on social costs (1950), and by Kneese and Ayres (1969) on thepervasiveness of externalities, was also influential. Ecological economics views theeconomy as embedded in larger biophysical ecosystems. Areas of study include thesocial metabolism of societies, the development of physical indicators, the modelling ofthe interactions between economy and environment, the multiplicity of valuationlanguages deployed in the management of natural resources and environmental services,cost-benefit and multi-criteria evaluation methods, and new institutions and policyinstruments for improving sustainability. 2
  • 3. The FP7 CEECEC (Civil Society Engagement with Ecological Economics) project(2008-2010) grew out of disatisfaction with the distance between academic ecologicaleconomics, and activist knowledge and needs (Escobar, 2008). Building upon thelessons from CEECEC, a larger project EJOLT (Environmental Justice Organizations,Liabilities and Trade) was prepared in 2010, and will run between 2011 and 2014.CEECEC was focused on learning and teaching ecological economics withenvironmental activists while EJOLT explicitly combines academic and activistknowledge, focusing on activism-led science.In this article, we analyze the origins and development of the CEECEC and EJOLTprojects, showing how the academic partners met the EJOs over periods going backover twenty years in some cases, since empirical research on environmental conflictsinvolves leaving the ivory tower and meeting the actors involved in the conflicts on theground, namely EJOS. We then review some core concepts relevant for EJOLT:Ecological debt, the EROI of agriculture and its use by Via Campesina, ecologicallyunequal exchange, corporate accountability and liability, post-normal science, the GDPof the poor, and economic degrowth. Our analysis shows that the work of scholars andresearchers in ecological economics may be seen sometimes as activism-led sciencewhile the work of EJOs may be seen in some instances as science-led activism. Adialectic and dynamic relation is present at the center of interactions between academicsand practitioners focused on ecological distribution conflicts.The CEECEC projectCEECEC was a European Commission funded project (750 000 €) to enable CSOs toengage in and lead collaborative research with ecological economists. The overall focuswas not on theory but on case study learning, whereby CSOs and academics identifiedand explored key issues for research in areas such as water management, waste disposal,transport and trade, tourism, nature conservation, extractive industries, forestry andagriculture, based on CSO knowledge, needs, and interests. The methological approachin CEECEC was to ask environmental CSOs to write reports on case studies of theirown choice, and then collaborate with university institutes in turning these reports intochapters of a Handbook which would be helpful for CSOs in the development of theirframes of action and strategies on the ground. The CSOs chose with total freedom thecase studies they wanted to write about -- often major ongoing conflicts. The academicpartners held workshops with the CSOs and engaged in two-way communicationshaping the chapters written by them and providing keywords.The CSOs that took part in CEECEC (listed in Table 1 together with the titles of thecase studies) were the CSE from India, Acción Ecológica from Ecuador, the CED-Friends of the Earth from Cameroon, Endemit from Serbia , Sunce from Croatia, Rebraffrom Brazil, VODO from Belgium, and ASud from Italy. Academic partners wereICTA-UAB (coordinator), SERI from Austria (a think-tank that took care of thewebsite), the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Gepama (University of Buenos Aires),ECOMAN (Universidade Nova de Lisboa), and IFF (Vienna, specialized in the study ofsocial metabolism).Dr. Simron Jit Singh (IFF, Vienna) wrote one chapter on the role of donor CSOs afterthe Tsunami of 2004 in the Nicobar islands – this chapter teaches about Material Flowaccounting, as well as about institutions and markets. Similarly, the ICTA UAB 3
  • 4. contributed one chapter by Leah Temper on conflicts on the HANPP (humanappropriation of net primary production) in the Tana Delta in Kenya, born out of acollaboration with Nature Kenya and the East African Widlife Society. This chapterdeveloped from a “live ecological economics session” at the conference of theInternational Society for Ecological Economics in Nairobi in 2008. In sum, two of the14 chapters have been written by the academic partners (“cheating” on the initial plan),and two or three others (in Cameroon and Ecuador) benefited from the visits of graduatestudents from ICTA UAB.Table 1 : The CEECEC case studies and their keywordsCase KeywordsPayments for Ecosystem Services willingness to pay, opportunity cost, Coasian bargaining, environmental(PES) in India from the Bottom-Up services, transaction costs, community property rights, CDMCSEParticipatory Forest Management in biomass economy, Gross Nature Product, GDP of the poor, joint forestMendha Lekha, India management, watershed management, social capital, self regulation,CSE consensual democracy, community rights, non-monetary economy, livelihood security, rights-based approachMineral Extraction and Conflict in copper mining, Shuar communities, environmentalism of the poor,Cordillera del Cóndor, Ecuador, biodiversity hot spot, ILO Convention 169, Social Multicriteria Methods,Acción Ecológica languages of valuation, inconmensurability of values.Manta-Manaos Multi-modal Transport Social metabolism, material flows, transport infrastructure, localInfrastructure in Ecuador: Nature, knowledge, resource extraction, Chinese export markets, free trade,Capital and Plunder IIRSAAcción EcológicaWaste Crisis in Campania, Italy hazardous waste, Ecomafia, cost shifting, post-normal science, “ZeroA SUD waste”, incinerators, Lawrence Summers principle, DPSIR (Driving forces, Pressures, States, Impacts, Responses), corruption, EROIHigh Speed Transport Infrastructure Transport and energy, material flows, participatory democracy, Cost-(TAV) in Italy Benefit Analysis, Multi Criteria Evaluation, High speed, NIMBY (Not InA SUD My Back Yard), activist knowledgeLocal Governance and Environment environmental investments, grazing rights, community resourceInvestments in Hiware Bazar, India management, water harvesting, National rural employment guarantee ActCSE (NREGA), institutional innovations, property rights, virtual water, livelihood security.Nautical Tourism in the Lastovo nautical tourism, marine biodiversity, depopulation, landscape value,Islands Nature Park, Croatia property rights, protected area management, carrying capacity, resilience,SUNCE public participation, willingness to pay, eco-tourism management.Local Communities and Management Protected areas, dams and hydroelectricity, depopulation, co-of Protected Areas in Serbia (Djerdap) management, eco-tourism, forest economics, local livelihoodENDEMIT opportunities, ecosystem services, Krutilla’s rule, cost-benefit analysis, trans-boundary cooperationMechanisms in Support of the Creation biodiversity valuation, ecological economic zoning, avoidedand Consolidation of Protected Areas deforestation, carbon trade, payment for environmental services,in Mato Grosso, Brazil: The Potential opportunity cost, institutional innovations, stakeholder participation,of REDD and Legal Reserve public policy formulationCompensationREBRAFForestry and Communities in Industrial logging, property rights, community forests, co-management,Cameroon community interests, commodity chains, ecologically unequal exchange,CED-FoE cost shifting, corporate accountability, corruption, wood certification, fair trade, consumer blindness, languages of valuation, FLEGTEnvironmental Justice and Ecological ecological debt, lead pollution, manufacturing of uncertainty,Debt in Belgium: The UMICORE case environmental justice, popular epidemiology, post-normal science,VODO environmental externalities, corporate accountability/ liability, value of human life, discount rate, greenwashingAid, Social Metabolism and Social humanitarian aid, material and energy flows, working time, propertyConflict in the Nicobar Islands rights, community ownership, subsistence economy, natural disastersIFF-UKLLand use and water disputes in the wetlands, land-grabbing, irrigation, pastoralists, property rights, biofuels,Tana Delta, Kenya, ICTA UAB- EROI, HANPP, virtual water, biodiversityNature Kenya 4
  • 5. A twelve-week trial on-line course was run between May and July 2010 with 25students, most of them members of CSOs but a few university lecturers and students,and public administrators. For the course, lectures (based on the chapters,www.ceecec.net) featuring slide shows with recorded audio were made availabletogether with essay questions for students. There are further plans for on-line teachingand learning of ecological economics from the bottom up, and also for publishing abook based on CEECEC.The EJOLT projectIn 2010, upon the completion of CEECEC, another FP7 Science-in-Society project(over 3 M €) was awarded, involving 23 organizations: seven university researchinstitutes, two think-tanks, one independent laboratory, and 13 EJOs (Table 2). TheEJOLT project is geared to support research on two key issues of immediate interest tosociety. Which are the causes of the increasing ecological distribution conflicts atdifferent scales? How can such conflicts be turned into forces for environmentalsustainability?Table 2 - The EJOLT partners Organization Country Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autònoma de Spain Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) (coordinator) Centre for Civil Society (CCS) South Africa (Durban) CDCA (A-Sud) Italy ToxicsWatch Alliance India Sozial Ökologie Institut - University of Klagenfurt (IFF) Austria Focus Association for Sustainable Development (FOCUS) Slovenia Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (FIOCRUZ) Brazil World Rainforest Movement (WRM) Uruguay Acción Ecológica – Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros en América Ecuador Latina (OCMAL) Citizens for Justice (CFJ) Malawi Earthlife Namibia (ELN) Namibia Environmental Rights Action - Oilwatch (ERA) Nigeria Northern Alliance for Sustainability (ANPED) Belgium Nature Kenya (NK) Kenya Lund University Sweden Universitat Rovira i Virgili Spain Boğaziçi University Turkey Business and Human Rights United Kingdom Za Zemiata (ZZ) Bulgaria Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI) Germany Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ) France Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) Spain Commission de Recherche et dInformation Indépendantes sur la France Radioactivité (CRIIRAD)Conflicts arising in mining, oil and gas extraction, nuclear energy, shipbreaking and e-waste disposal, tree plantations, biomass exports and land grabbing will be studiedacross the world. The Action Plan of EJOLT encompasses the production of databasesand maps of environmental injustices, networking platforms, mutual case study 5
  • 6. development, policy papers, dissemination of best practices, scientific articles, videos,on-line courses, and other training materials. For instance, one EJOLT partner is theWRM, an organization doing activist research on tree plantations conflicts. The WRMcollaborated with J.F. Gerber (ICTA UAB) who prepared a world inventory of treeplantation conflicts, listing the relevant variables that could help explain the incidenceof such conflicts (Gerber, 2010). EJOLT will continue such statistical work, extending itto other conflicts on biomass, oil and gas extraction, to mining conflicts, and to somewaste disposal conflicts. Fig 1. The structure of the EJOLT projectFig. 1 showsthestructure of EJOLT, composed of four vertical work packages, dealing with: a) thenuclear energy chain from uranium mining to waste disposal; b) oil and gas extractionand climate change injustices; c) biomass and land grabbing conflicts; and d) othermining conflicts and waste disposal conflicts such as ship disposal and e-waste exports.Both resource extraction and waste disposal are considered (including disposal ofgreenhouse gases that gives rise to climate justice issues) (Martinez-Alier, 2009).EJOLT also includes five cross-cutting work packages: (a) an inventory and (b) map ofecological distribution conflicts drawing on the knowledge of the EJOs and theirnetworks; (c) three workshops on risks to environmental health, on economic valuationof enviromental liabilities, on court cases and other procedures to enforce corporateaccountability and obtain environmental justice locally and internationally; (d) aworkshop on ecologically unequal trade and the ecological debt bringing together theresults of previous workshops. Finally, (e) one more transversal work package willcarry out bottom-up training (based on the CEECEC model), including policyformulation, as well as dissemination through video productions. 6
  • 7. Indian RootsThe CEECEC and the EJOLT projects have common origins. CEECEC originatedbefore the 9th biennial Conference of the International Society for EcologicalEconomics (ISEE) in New Delhi in December 2006, when a contribution to theconference by Hali Healy pointed out that ecological economics lacked significance fornon-governmental organizations. This was perhaps true but it rattled a bit. At that time,Martinez-Alier was president of ISEE and he had been involved in research andacademic collaboration in India for twenty years. His knowledge of India’senvironmental activists went back to the publication by the Centre for Science andEnvironment (Delhi) of the First and Second Citizens’ Reports on the State of theEnvironment, the publication by Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain of the CSE of theinfluential booklet Global warming in an unequal world: a case of environmentalcolonialism in 1991, and his collaboration with Indian environmental historians (Guhaand Martinez-Alier, 1997).Because of this connection and long-term professional ties, Sunita Narain, the head ofthe CSE, was invited to attend the ISEE conference and give a plenary speech. Despitebeing at at first reluctant to deliver the speech, she nevertheless accepted because shewas asked to do so by Prof. N.S. Johda, the author of Life on the Edge. Sustainingagriculture and community resources in fragile environments (Oxford U.P., Delhi,2001) who had long been an advocate of bringing together science and practical localknowledge, as so many other activist groups in India did. This meant that Sunita Narain,a non-academic activist, was a plenary speaker at the ISEE conference. In fact, the CSEjournal Down to Earth had carried articles on valuation of non-timber forest products,the costs of urban air pollution, the economics of water harvesting in Indian villages,bottom-up cases of payment for environmental services, and also the political economyof climate change. The goal and hope for the conference was that Sunita Narain couldteach practical ecological economics (her talk was on human excrement, its productionand management in Delhi), and hopefully that the CSE could also gain some valuableknowledge from the conference deliberations and debates for its work.Italian and Latin American RootsPresent at the ISEE Conference in New Delhi in December 2006, was also Giuseppe deMarzo, a leading member of the Italian EJO ASud (and a partner both in CEECEC andEJOLT), author in 2009 of a book entitled Buen Vivir (based on a concept enshrined inthe new Constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador). Over the years, ASud has built anarchive of environmental conflicts (www.cdca.it) with emphasis on Latin America. DeMarzo had also taken part in debates on the ecological debt, a concept born in activistcircles in 1990 at the Instituto de Ecología Política in Chile (Robleto and Marcelo,1992) and discussing the thinning of the ozone layer and later, climate change. In 1997and after, a campaign on ecological debt was taken up, mainly by the EJO AcciónEcológica from Ecuador. Furthermore, ASud was familiar with attempts to provide afinancial estimate of the environmental and social damages of Chevron-Texaco’s oilextraction in Ecuador in a court case started in 1993. Such calculations of corporateliability are indeed instances of applied ecological economics (as in the UMICORE casein CEECEC). ASud was also interested in another line of work in ecological economics,the study of social metabolism, which they found useful for activists because of the linkbetween increasing flows of energy and materials into the economy and the increased 7
  • 8. number of resource extraction conflicts. ASud thus became a partner of CEECEC (asalso did Acción Ecológica from Ecuador), contributing not only their knowledge ofenvironmental conflicts worldwide but also two chapters on major environmentalconflicts in Italy. Another partner of CEECEC (Walter Pengue, from the University ofBuenos Aires) had also pushed the notion of the ecological debt tracing the loss ofnutrients, soil and “virtual” water in the soybean exports of Argentina (Pengue, 2005).Ecological Debt: Activism leads to scientific production and policy makingIn the 1990s, the concept of the ecological debt spread among activists because of thedifficulty that countries were facing in paying back their external financial debt.Activists asked the question “Who owes Whom?” and concluded that Southerncountries should actually be seen as a creditors, not debtors (Fig. 2), hence the creationof the network SPEDCA, Southern Peoples Ecological Debt Creditors Alliance.(www.deudaecologica.org) around 2000. Shortly after, the notion was taken up by non-environmental civil society organizations including the World Council of Churches(Peralta, 2009). Since 1997, Acción Ecológica has also sponsored several internationalmeetings on the ecological debt with the international confederation of Friends of theEarth. Fig. 2. An activist message, at the venue of the World Social Forum, Mumbai 2004 (Vivek Bendre, Frontline).If the concept of the ecological debt originally came from civil society activism(Martinez-Alier, 2002, Simms, 2005), after twenty years it is now reaching the policyarena in proposals for an agreement on climate change policies. For instance, Robertsand Parks (2007) show that carbon dioxide emissions are increasing sharply in someraw materials exporting developing countries as wealthy nations “offshore” the energyand natural resource-intensive stages of production. Industrialized nations are thus in asituation of “carbon debt” or “ecological debt” relative to Southern nations, as they havegreatly exceeded their share of equitable, global per capita carbon emissions, and havealready used up most of the “space” available for greenhouse gas emissions in theatmosphere. In terms of public policy, Roberts and Parks assert that funds transferscould help poorer nations transition from carbon-intensive pathways to more climate- 8
  • 9. friendly development trajectories, using remuneration from the so-called “ecologicaldebt”.This view fits into the Yasuni ITT initiative in Ecuador, which was one starting pointfor CEECEC when the project was written in early 2007. The original Yasuni ITTproposal came from Acción Ecológica at the end of 2006. The idea of the Yasuni ITT isthat the economic value (net of extraction costs) of the estimated 850 million barrels ofoil that will not be extracted out of the Amazonian soil is less than the value of the localbiodiversity, the avoided carbon dioxide emissions, and the rights of the localindigenous peoples, and that these net benefits accrue in part to the global community.Or rather, the value of the oil and the other items come in different units. After severalyears of campaigning around the globe, the goverment of Ecuador finally signed anagreement with UNDP in August 2010 to set up a Trust Fund in which contributions tothe Yasuni ITT project will be collected for investment in renewable energies and socialdevelopment. Ecuador asks for outside contributions of 3,6 billion USD over 13 yearsequalling half the estimated foregone revenue. Such contributions may be seen asrepayments for the ecological debt. The Yasuni ITT case is a solid example of how theclaims and demands of environmental justice organizations have penetrated the policyarena and contributed to innovative proposals that help address climate change whileproviding support for biodiversity conservation and social policies locally. There are anincreasing number of academic articles and books scrutinizing the Yasuni ITT proposal.Srinivasan et al. (2008) quantified (at USD 2 trillion) the ecological debt from North toSouth. A large part of this is the climate debt. This was published in Proceedings of theNational Academy of Sciences, signalling the scientific credibility of the concept of“ecological debt”. In several books and articles, Paredis et al (2008) and Goemmine andParedis (2009) provided an academic discussion on this grass-roots concept that hasnow “matured”. Furthermore, in Copenhagen in December 2009 at least 20 heads ofgovernment or ministers explicitly mentioned the ecological debt in their mainspeeches, some also using the loaded word “reparations”. A presentation on the climatedebt was made by Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations. He saidthat "admitting responsibility for the climate crisis without taking necessary actions toaddress it is like someone burning your house and then refusing to pay for it. Even if thefire was not started on purpose, the industrialised countries, through their inaction, havecontinued to add fuel to the fire… It is entirely unjustifiable that countries like Boliviaare now forced to pay for the crisis. [...] Who should address this? To us it seems onlyright that the polluter should pay, and not the poor. We are not assigning guilt, merelyresponsibility. As they say in the US, if you break it, you buy it." The claim forcompensation for the climate debt twenty years after Rio 1992 is now audible toanybody witnessing the international negotiations. Thus in December 2009, the thenForeign Relations Minister of Ecuador (Fander Falconí), stated in Copenhagen that poorcountries were like “passive smokers”, mentioning explicitly the “polluter paysprinciple” and the notion of the ecological debt. Here there is a clear line from activismto science, and to policy making at different scales.From science to activism: Via Campesina looks at the EROI of agricultureAs much as activism has influenced the production of scientific knowledge andenvironmental policy-making, scientific research has also supported the work of non-governmental organizations, as shown by the example of biofuel production. Critiques 9
  • 10. of biofuel or agrofuel production from ecological economists (Russi, 2008, Giampietroand Mayumi, 2009) are based on three main points. First, agrofuels mean an increase inthe HANPP, the human appropriation of net primary production, to the detriment ofother species; and occupying space that could be used to grow food crops. Second,agrofuels consume a lot of “virtual” water that could have been used for other crops orpurposes. Third, agrofuels have a low EROI (energy return on energy input), perhapslower than one, or perhaps only 1.5 to 1, or 2 to 1 – when we deduct from the output, aswe should, the net energy produced in the fields before they are turned into agrofuelmonocultures. The debates on agrofuels have re-popularized the analysis of agricultureas a system of transformation of energy, but the first calculations date from the late 19thcentury (Martinez-Alier, 1987). At that time, agriculture was seen as producer of foodenergy and not of fuel for cars, although Rudolf Diesel himself said that his enginecould work with vegetable oils. Later, in the early 1970s, taking up H. T. Odum’s viewof modern agriculture as “farming with petroleum”, several researchers did carefulaccounts of the output-input ratio of agricultural systems. The best-known calculationswere by Pimentel (Pimentel et al, 1973) published in Science. It was striking to realizethat the energy output-input ratio of corn production in Iowa or Illinois was lower thanthat for the traditional milpa corn production system of rural Mexico. From aneconomic point of view, modern agriculture increased productivity, but from a physicalpoint of view, it lowered the energy efficiency.The concept of EROI, fundamental in the history of ecological economics (and also ofecological anthropology, Rappaport, 1967), has now been taken up after 40 years bypro-peasant CSOs, and by the international network Via Campesina. The EROI concepthas also proved to be useful (outside peasant activism) to environmental or indigenousorganizations complaining for instance against Alberta oil sands extraction. Fig. 3. An activist message, “peasant agriculture cools down the earth” (Source: Duke University students, Dec. 2009Since 2007 Via Campesina has published reports stating that “agriculture has changedfrom being a producer of energy to being a consumer of energy”. Actually, agriculturetransforms solar energy into food, it does not “produce” energy. The efficiency of 10
  • 11. photosynthesis is around one per cent, thus a lot of the solar energy input is notincorporated into the food energy. However, the meaning of Via Campesina’s statementis clear: The (fossil-fuel based) inputs of energy into agriculture (not counting solarenergy) have increased faster than the outputs, and in “developed” economies moreenergy is put into the agricultural and food system than we get out of the system. ViaCampesina states in its reports that the first role of plants and agriculture is to transformsolar energy into energy in the form of sugars and cellulose that can be directlyabsorbed in food or transformed by animals into animal products. This is a processwhich brings energy into the food chain. However, the industrialization of agriculturehas lead to an agriculture which is a net consumer of energy (i.e., fertilizers, tractors, oilbased agrochemicals). Moreover, fodder and food transport as well as deforestation forpastures, soybeans or oil palms make agriculture even more of an “energy consumer”and a contributor to climate change. The capacity of the soils to retain carbon is alsodamaged by modern agriculture.In addition to its reports, Via Campesina summarized its core arguments in booklets andposters prepared for the COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 stating that “PeasantAgriculture Cools Down the Earth” (Fig.3). Does it matter that Via Campesina forgetsto quote H.T. Odum (1971), Pimentel (1973), Hall et al (1986) or indeed De Saussurewho in 1804 demonstrated that plants absorb carbon dioxide by photosynthesis, today’sprimary (or secondary) school knowledge?Here the traffic went first from science to activism, and later from activism to academicresearch and to public policies. Doctoral theses, scientific articles and policy proposalsare now written on different aspects of “food sovereignty”, the concept that summarizesthe frames developed by Via Campesina to point to the environmental and socialconsequences of over-industrialization and intensive agriculture.Ecologically unequal trade: from science to activismOne CEECEC case study deals with deforestation, community resistance and the woodtrade in Cameroon. It was written by CED (Centre for Environment and Developmentled by Samuel Nguiffo, and a member organization of Friends of the EarthInternational). Some keywords of this chapter (see Table 1): “industrial logging,community forests, commodity chains, ecologically unequal exchange, corporateaccountability, corruption, wood certification, consumer blindness, FLEGT” are a directreflection of recent research in the ecological economics of trade, and of existingpolicies. For instance, FLEGT, refers to a European sponsored programme on ForestLaw Enforcement, Governance and Trade, while another keyword, “consumerblindness”, arose at a CEECEC workshop to indicate the lack of knowledge inimporting countries of the origins and conditions of production of commoditiesconsumed. Another concept “Ecologically unequal trade” is a twenty-year old conceptalien to mainstream economics. It was easily understood however by the activist writersfrom Cameroon. In this context, a project like CEECEC was meant to "translate" ormake accessible for EJOs and other stakeholders propositions such as: "Tied to theirunsustainable consumption levels, this misappropriation (of global environmentalspace) by higher-income countries leads to the suppression of resource consumption inlower-income countries, well below globally sustainable thresholds, which negativelyimpacts the well-being of domestic populations." (Jorgenson, 2009). CEECEC has 11
  • 12. allowed EJOs to incorporate recent ecological economics theory into their frames andstrengthen their arguments and claims.At the beginning of European colonization, the goods imported were what Wallersteincalled ‘‘preciosities’’. The means of transport at the time made large shipmentsimpossible. A few bulk commodities such as wood, guano, and cotton later had roles inthe techno-metabolism of the importing countries. However, in the early 20th centurythe countries of today’s European Union still depended on their own coal and biomassas energy sources, while now they are large net importers of oil and gas. Today, takingall materials together, the European Union imports nearly four times more tons than itexports. Meanwhile, Latin America as a whole appears to be exporting six times moretons than it imports (Giljum and Eisenmenger, 2004). Moreover, Southern exports carryheavier “ecological rucksacks’’ than the imports. This added an ecological perspectiveto older theories of deteriorating terms of trade for commodity exporting countries.Steve Bunker wrote an influential book on raw material exports and the lack of politicalpower in Northern Brazil (Bunker, 1984, 1985). This was followed by articles inEcological Economics and the Journal of Industrial Ecology looking at physical tradebalances between countries or regions. (Gonzalez and Schandl, 2008; Muñoz et al.,2009, Muradian et al., 2001, 2002; Perez Rincon, 2006, 2007, Russi et al., 2008,Vallejo, 2010, Vallejo et al., 2010). Thus, while “ecological debt” was born fromactivism and transmitted to academia, the concept of “ecologically unequal exchange”was developed by academics, becoming relevant for EJOs and also for policy-makersconsidering the establishment of “natural capital depletion taxes”. The president ofEcuador for example, asked OPEC in November 2007 to impose an eco-tax on oilexports, because of unpaid local negative externalities and the enhanced greenhouseeffect (Martinez-Alier and Temper, 2007).Assessment of health risks and environmental liabilities: the UMICORE caseThe next case analyzes the role of activist researchers in assessing health risks andenvironmental liabilities coming from corporate practices. VODO is a Flemishfederation of civil society groups working on sustainable development. Its executivesecretary in 2007-09 was Leida Rijnhout (now in 2010 executive secretary at ANPED, aNorthern European federation of environmental CSOs). Inspired by debates on theecological debt, VODO took up the UMICORE corporation case in Flanders for theCEECEC project, with support from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Lea Sebastienand Tom Bauler, cf. Cornut et al, 2007).The assessment of risks to health in resource extraction or waste disposal conflicts is atopic both in CEECEC and EJOLT. One can often observe the two-way communicationbetween activists on the ground and outside experts regarding the uncertain risks fromnew investments in agrofuels, mining, oil and gas extraction, and recycling practices.This is "post-normal" science in practice (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1994, Pereira andFuntowicz, 2009, Walter and Martinez-Alier, 2009). Funtowicz’s and Ravetzs post-normal science coincides to some extent with Becks risk society theory, sharing theview that the “precautionary principle” has not historically been applied despite earlywarnings (EEA, 2002), and fostering the debate about social participation in thedefinition of environmental risks. In a context of complexity, uncertainty anddifficulties concerning assessment, responsibility and compensation, stakeholderparticipation in decision-making processes acquires a new rationale. This perspective 12
  • 13. (well known to ecological economists) was brought into the UMICORE chapter inCEECEC.In the Antwerp suburb of Hoboken, where UMICORE runs the world’s largest preciousmetals recycling unit, controversies about health risks and the incidence of cancer arestill taking place. Despite epidemiological research that could have been deemed strongenough statistically, evidence of risks and cancer incidence was and is still disputed bythe firm. To illustrate this more than skeptical corporate attitude, the CEECEC casestudy on the topic featured the keyword “manufacturing of uncertainty”. Although theplant has implemented substantial ecological modernisation since the 1970s, the legacyof 125 years of historic pollution is still present. Lead, arsenic and cadmium levels inthe soil increase with proximity to the factory, as does the level of lead in the blood oftoddlers and infants. As a result, since the early 1920s local actors have been asking fordecontamination and compensation. In 2004, the company paid 77 million € for a clean-up of the area in proximity to its plants.In light of the health impacts of the company’s recycling work, the UMICORE chapterin CEECEC quantified the environmental liability or ecological debt, calculating theamount that the company owes to nearby residents, with a focus on health damages andloss of capabilities. The authors combined the best available studies on damage tohealth and crops in Hoboken with relevant calculations of the cost of illness, theeconomic values of human life and foregone benefits from gardening. The results oftheir study show the environmental liability of a single industrial plant, and informrecommendations for actions to be taken by the chemical industry and the governmentto enforce corporate accountability. The main author of the study, Nick Meynen, ayoung activist journalist, believes that his study could be used by civil society to seekreparations from the firm. In the course of 2011, this chapter might become an article inan environmental sciences journal. In sum, the UMICORE case illustrates the dialecticand dynamic relations at the center of the interactions and collaborations betweenacademics, activists, and practitioners. This iterative and mutually-reinforcingrelationship between knowledge production and knowledge use will ultimatelycontribute to addressing the causes and consequences of environmental conflicts.GDP of the PoorFinally, we focus on another CEECEC case study, this one on the tribal village ofMendha Lekha in eastern Maharashtra in India, written by Supriya Singh of the Centerfor Science and the Environment. The adivasi Gonds, traditionally depend on the forestfor food, grazing, timber, water and other resources. The village is one of the fewremaining villages in the Gadchiroli district that controls and manages a village forest of18 km2 according to its own rules. Since the village depends heavily on its forest, alldecisions pertaining to the management and extraction of resources are takencollectively. The chapter in CEECEC describes the institutions of environmental andresource management. Far from a “tragedy of the commons” taking place, the village isa successful example of community-based resource management. The economy is selfsustaining and unaffected by the vagaries of the market economy as the Gonds havemanaged to keep their economy relatively free of monetization. Despite being poor inmonetary terms and also with regard to material possessions, Supriya Singh emphasizesthat their economy is not adequately measured in GDP accounting. Many timber andnon-timber products from the forests, many environmental resources (water, pastures 13
  • 14. and medicinal plants) are provided for by nature according to social rules of accesswithout going through market transactions. Work is performed outside the market, bothfor economic production and for social reproduction.Furthermore, one of the keywords of this study is “the GDP of the Poor”, introduced in2008 by TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, a project sponsored byUNEP and by DG ENV of the European Commission). The GDP of the Poor conceptargues that the monetary representation of the services provided by clean water, soilretention, access to wood and pastures, and medicinal plants does not really measure theessential dependence of rural poor people on such resources and services. In traditionalGDP accounting, the economic valuation of such losses might be low relative to theeconomic gains of projects that destroy biodiversity. The groups of people who suffermost from such losses however are traditional poor rural communities, (Orta et al, 2007,Gerber et al, 2009), hence the notion of "the GDP of the Poor.". This notion isillustrated in cases of water river or aquifer pollution due to mining extraction. Here, thepoor cannot use the river or aquifer as a source of potable water any longer, but cannotafford to buy water in plastic bottles either. Therefore, when poor people see that theirsources of livelihood are threatened by mining projects, dams, tree plantations, or largeindustrial areas, their claims stem from the fact that they need the services of theenvironment for their immediate survival, hence the concept of the “environmentalismof the poor” (Guha and Martinez-Alier, 1997). Here as well, the environmental impactsof resource extraction or pollution are taken up and analyzed by scientists, who in turndevelop concepts that can be used by activists and communities on the ground to asserttheir claims to policy-makers and corporations that support destructive practices.Beyond GDP lies Economic Degrowth: again, from activism to scienceThe reality of the “GDP of the poor” is one of the reasons why we should mistrustnational macroeconomic accounting and go “Beyond GDP”. This expression, BeyondGDP, became fashionable in Brussels among some European civil servants andpoliticians some forty years after Commission President Sicco Mansholt in 1972 hadalready criticized GDP, and proposed an end to economic growth in rich countries. Theslogan in Brussels is “the greening of the economy: beyond GDP”.GDP growth coincides with increasing pressure on biodiversity, climate change, and thedestruction of human livelihoods at the “commodity frontiers” (Moore, 2000).Environmental activists are comforted by the academic critiques of GDP. Actually,feminist activists and academics (Waring, 1988) made a convicing argument againstGDP accounting because it “forgot” not only to count nature’s services but also unpaiddomestic work. Moreover, another type of critique against GDP accounting is nowsurfacing socially, the so-called Easterlin Paradox as updated by work by socialpsychologists which shows that increases in happiness do not correlate with increases inincome above a certain level of per capita income. In a paper published in 1974,Easterlin found that within a given country people with higher incomes are more likelyto report being happy. However, in international comparisons the average reported levelof happiness did not vary much with national income per person, at least for countrieswith income sufficient to meet basic needs. Similarly, although income per person rosesteadily in the United States between 1946 and 1970, average reported happinessshowed no long-term trend and declined between 1960 and 1970. 14
  • 15. Such criticisms against the methods and relevance of GDP accounting go much beyondcomplementary measurements of social performance such as the HDI (humandevelopment index) which correlates very closely with GDP per capita. They also gobeyond the idea of simply “greening the GDP”, or introducing satellite accounts.Among the physical indices of sustainability, the best known is the Ecological Footprint(EF) that made its debut in 1992 at an Ecological Economics conference (Rees andWackernagel, 1994). The WWF publishes the EF results regularly. The EF translatesthe use per capita of land for food, fibre, wood, plus the built environment (paved spacefor houses and roads), plus the hypothetical land that would absorb the carbon dioxideproduced by burning fossil fuels into a single representative number in hectares. The EFis a constructed index, it does not measure any given properties of nature or humansystems. The calculations also assume that humans have a right to use most of theplanet. In any case, work on “ecological economics for EJOs” should analyse the socialsuccess of the EF and the uses of this index by EJOs. Going “beyond GDP” accountingshould mean looking beyond the single imperative of economic growth in developedcountries and should mean something different from “greening the GDP” or, at theother extreme, genuflecting before one single environmental index such as the EF. Itshould mean to go into multicriteria assessment of the economy, working with ten,twelve indicators of social, cultural, economic and environmental performance(Shmelev and Rodriguez-Labajos, 2009).Social movements have sometimes referred to the works of academics in regards toanother related demand: socially sustainable economic de-growth. The décroissancemovement has some of its roots in ecological economics, namely in Georgescu-Roegen’s work. Some articles of his were translated and published by Grinevald andRens in 1979 with the title Démain la décroissance, with which he agreed. This was thefirst time that “economic degrowth” was put forward as a slogan. (Martinez-Alier et al,2010). The bulk of French and Italian activists in the décroissance and decrescitamovements might have read a few articles by Georgescu-Roegen but not his books onenergy, materials and the economy (1966 (introduction), 1971). They are not availablein French or Italian, and they are hard to digest in any case. Nevertheless, this does notstop activists from singing the praises of Georgescu-Roegen. This behaviour is painfulto scholars but it is in the nature of social movements.The Degrowth activists in France and Italy are also keen on one concept from industrialecology: the Jevons’ paradox or “rebound effect” (Polimeni et al, 2009) because theyargue against techno-optimism and the use of technology to transcend environmentallimits. They have read economic anthropologists such as Serge Latouche (2007) and areinspired by environmental thinkers of the 1970s such as André Gorz and Ivan Illich. ButDegrowth is not based on iconic writings. It is a social movement born fromexperiences of co-housing, squatting, neo-ruralism, reclaiming the streets, alternativeenergies, waste prevention and recycling. It is a new slogan, a new movement, and ithas become a new research programme. This is again a case of activist-led science,towards a new branch in the sustainability sciences that could be called “economicdegrowth studies” closely related to “socio-ecological transition studies” (Fischer-Kowalski and Haberl, eds., 2007, Haberl et al, 2009, Krausmann et al, 2008, Krausmannet al, 2009).There is no similar Degrowth movement (yet?) in Germany, the U.K., the United States,or Japan but the convergence of Degrowth activists with ecological economists and 15
  • 16. industrial ecologists has produced already two scholarly conferences in Europe (Paris,April 2008, Barcelona, March 2010, www.degrowth.eu). (Fig. 4) The words “economicdegrowth” have also been introduced into academic journals. A collection of papersfrom the 2008 conference (Schneider, Kallis and Martinez-Alier, 2010) was publishedin the Journal of Cleaner Production including a remarkable article by ChristianKerschner explaining Georgescu-Roegen’s criticism of Daly’s “steady-state economy”(Daly, 1973, 1991, 2007). Kerschner looks at “degrowth” as a stage towards a steady-state economy. There is a book by Mylondo (2009) with papers from the 2008conference, while special issues from the 2010 conference are in preparation forEcological Economics and the Journal of Cleaner Production. The same group hasproduced a film, Life after Growth, by Claudia Medina and Leah Temper. Fig.4. Academic and activist international conference on Degrowth, Paris, April 2008ConclusionThis article explains the origins and contents of two European FP7 “Science in Society”projects, CEECEC (Civil Society Engagement with Ecological Economics) and EJOLT(Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade), giving examples ofactivist-led science and of science-led activism in the field of ecological economics andalso in political ecology. CEECEC was focused on learning and teaching ecologicaleconomics with environmental activists while EJOLT combines academic and activistknowledge to answer two main questions: Which are the roots of the increasing number 16
  • 17. of resource extraction and waste disposal conflicts taking place at different scales? Howmight such conflicts be turned into forces for environmental sustainability?Environmental Justice Organizations (EJOs) and their networks are learning to useconcepts from ecological economics and other sustainability sciences, activities whichcould be labelled “capacity building”. More importantly, EJOs and their networks havedeveloped new concepts (ecological debt, food sovereignty, corporate accountability,economic degrowth) that have become subject to academic scrutiny, and in some caseshave been taken up in public policies. For instance, quantification of the ecological debtfrom North to South fulfills the demand from EJOs and also from government officialsfor instruction in the methods of calculation in terms that activists and citizens canunderstand. Moreover, this two-way communication improves the relevance andimmediacy of scientific research to civil society concerns.The CEECEC project (2008-10) adopted a case study approach in order to achieve itsgoals of learning and teaching ecological economics with civil society organizations,particularly EJOs. EJOs constantly conduct research on environmental conflicts andwrite reports as part of their advocacy work. What CEECEC provided to them was acritical audience of interested activist and academic partners, who gave encouragement,made comparisons, and provided keywords and references, keeping in mind the finalobjective of building a Handbook and on-line course with a glossary for teachingecological economics from the "bottom up" instead of from first principles. Here, EJOsappreciate the transdisciplinary approach of ecological economics (in contrast with thenarrow compass of neoclassical enviromental and resource economics).EJOLT is another collaborative project (much larger in scale than CEECEC) which willrun from 2011 to 2014 to support mutual learning and collaboration among stakeholderswho make use of the sustainability sciences, focusing on ecological distributionconflicts worldwide. During the implementation of EJOLT, the knowledge of EJOactivists will be combined with the research methodologies of the academic partners toshow the policy relevance of concepts such as “ecologically unequal exchange” and“ecological debt”. It will cover more issues and territories than CEECEC, with thedouble objective of, firstly, providing inventories and maps and advancing a theory ofthe causes of the increased number of ecological distribution conflicts, and, secondly,showing how such conflicts for environmental justice can be turned into a decisive forcethat moves the economy towards sustainability.New topics arise all the time. EJOs have large stocks of environmental knowledgegained from their grassroots experience and activism. They have introduced conceptsthat academics have taken up, refined and defined carefully, and have operationalizedthrough calculations. Ecological debt and climate debt are such concepts. Corporateaccountability is another such activist concept (Clapp and Utting, 2009). In other cases,EJOs and their networks can take concepts from academics (ecologically unequalexchange, GDP of the poor, corporate environmental liabilities) and use them for theirown ends. Such dynamics illustrate the mutually reinforcing relationship betweenresearchers and activists and the dialectic relation between knowledge production andknowledge use.The post-normal science approach (Pereira and Funtowicz, 2009) has legitimated civilsociety interventions in disputes with business and administrators who impose 17
  • 18. participatory exclusions (Agarwal, 2001) in the name of so-called sound science.Meanwhile, concepts such as embodied HANPP and virtual water, methods such asparticipatory multi-criteria evaluation and in general deliberative ecological economics(Zografos and Howarth, 2008), are waiting for takers from civil society, very much ascalculations of the EROI of agriculture waited for thirty years until they became activistknowledge through Via Campesina. There are other examples of activist-led science andof science-led activism in the field of sustainability studies, which will hopefully lead tonew procedures for decision making.and to new policies. For instance, economicdegrowth leading to a steady state is a plausible objective for the rich industrialeconomies, one that would be supported by the environmental justice movements of theSouth which are active in resource extraction conflicts.Acknowledgement. We thank all the CEECEC and EJOLT partners, and IsabelleAnguelovski for her competent editing job and useful suggestions.REFERENCESAgarwal, B., 2001, Participatory exclusions, community forests and gender: An analysis for South Asia and a conceptual framework, World Development, 29 (10):1623-48.Boulding, K., 1966. The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth, in Environmental quality in a growing economy (H. Jarret et al., eds.), John Hopkins Press, Baltimore.Bunker, S. 1984. Modes of extraction, unequal exchange, and the progressive underdevelopment of an extreme periphery. The Brazilian Amazon. American Journal of Sociology, 89: 1017-1064.Bunker, S. 1985. Underdeveloping the Amazon: Extraction, unequal exchange, and the failure of the modern state. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Bunker, S. 2007. The Poverty of Resource Extraction. In Rethinking environmental history: world-system history and global environmental change, edited by A. Hornborg, et al. Altamira Press, LanhamClapp, J., Utting, P. (eds.). 2009. Corporate accountability and sustainable development, Oxford U.P., Delhi.Cornut, P., Bauler, T., Zaccaï, E. (eds.). 2007. Environnement et inégalités sociales, Brussels, Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 214 p.Costanza, R. (ed.). 1991, Ecological Economics: the Science and Management of Sustainability, Columbia U.P. New York.Costanza, R., Segura, O., Martinez-Alier, J., (eds.). 1996. Getting down to earth: practical applications of ecological economics, Island Press, Washington DC, 494 p.Daly, H. 1968. On economics as a life science, Journal of Political Economy, 76 (3) (May – Jun): 392-406.Daly, H. 1973. Toward a Steady-state Economy. WH Freeman & Co, San Francisco, 332 p. 18
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