By Leah Temper, Mariana Walter, Iokiñe Rodriguez, Ashish Kothari, Ethemcan Turhan, published in Sustainability Science, Special Feature: The EJAtlas: Ecological Distribution Conflicts as Forces for Sustainability (2018)

A perspective on radical transformations to sustainability: resistances, movements and alternatives

A transformation to sustainability calls for radical and systemic societal shifts. Yet what this entails in practice and who the agents of this radical transformation are require further elaboration. This article recenters the role of environmental justice movements in transformations, arguing that the systemic, multi-dimensional and intersectional approach inherent in EJ activism is uniquely placed to contribute to the realization of equitable sustainable futures. Based on a perspective of conflict as productive, and a “conflict transformation” approach that can address the root issues of ecological conflicts and promote the emergence of alternatives, we lay out a conceptual framework for understanding transformations through a power analysis that aims to confront and subvert hegemonic power relations; that is, multi-dimensional and intersectional; balanc- ing ecological concerns with social, economic, cultural and democratic spheres; and is multi-scalar, and mindful of impacts across place and space. Such a framework can help analyze and recognize the contribution of grassroots EJ movements to societal transformations to sustainability and support and aid radical transformation processes. While transitions literature tends to focus on artifacts and technologies, we suggest that a resistance-centred perspective focuses on the creation of new subjectivities, power relations, values and institutions. This recenters the agency of those who are engaged in the creation and recuperation of ecological and new ways of being in the world in the needed transformation.

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