Studying Just Scapes
We’re using environmental justice analysis to study three European landscapes that are being transformed by climate change.
Our collaborative research across three different countries aims to increase our understanding of “just transformations” and the impact and fairness of climate-change policies in rural areas.
Governments across Europe are implementing policies that aim to mitigate, and adapt to, the effects of climate change. But not everyone feels that these policies are fair – particularly people living and working in rural areas.
Tensions can arise when environmental policies are seen to disproportionately affect low-income and rural households. A good example of this is the Gilets Jaunes Movement in France.
So, how can Europe balance environmental and social justice goals? This is the key question at the heart of the ‘Just Scapes’ project. To answer it, we’ll look at the effects of climate change itself, as well as how policies designed to address climate change can be fairer.
Funded by JPI Climate (SOLSTICE) for three years (2020–2023), ‘Just Scapes’ is taking place across three different sites:
Scotland: our UEA team is investigating a rewilding initiative in the deer-dominated Scottish Highlands. Run by Trees for Life, the project is called Affric Highlands. Despite covering more than 2,000 km2, the area being studied has a sparse population of around 2,300 people.
Czech Republic: our Czech team is examining how environmentally-oriented agricultural subsidies play out in practice. Their case site is the Slovácko and Valašsko region in South and East Moravia, known for its rolling fields.
France: our French team are interrogating the division of justice beliefs amongst two dominant communities in the Massat valley in the Pyrénées. Here, tensions between long-established cattle-farmers and new settlers can lead to conflict over such issues as tree cover and brown-bear populations.
Each team are implementing interdisciplinary research methods that have been designed to help us gain insight into how different stakeholders perceive environmental justice issues. These methods include semi-structured interviews, a large-scale survey and creative writing workshops with small groups at each site.
The findings from exploring environmental justice amongst these different communities will then help to inform a series of transdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder ‘Just Transformation Labs’. Linked to ongoing policy consultations in each of the three areas, these labs will involve shared visioning exercises to help develop manifestos for just landscape transformations.
‘Just Scapes’ seeks to directly benefit the locations and local communities in the Czech Republic, France and Scotland. Moreover, we also want the project to offer insights, methodologies and resources to contribute to the wider conversation on proposed rural land-use climate actions.
Our findings will be shared with policy and academic networks to improve policy development and promote scientific and social impacts, both nationally and internationally.
Alongside working with local organisations and communities, our interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary team is made up of researchers from four institutions across three countries:
ESPOL – the European School of Political and Social Sciences (Lille, France)
The Global Change Research Institute (Czech Globe) – part of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Prague, Czech Republic)
INRAE – the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (across France)
UEA – the University of East Anglia (Norwich, UK).
As well as all being experts in environmental issues, the team brings together knowledge from a diverse range of fields, including geography, psychology, political science, futures studies and creative writing.
A Professor of Environment & Development at UEA’s School of International Development, Prof Martin is co-ordinating the ‘Just Scapes’ project. In particular, he is involved with the literature review and the Scottish case study.
The former Director of our Global Environmental Justice Group, Prof Martin is a trained social scientist who specialises in interdisciplinary research that informs the management of natural resources in developing countries.
“At the heart of this project are interdisciplinary and participatory research methods that involve working closely with local communities and non-academic partners to identify transformative responses to climate change that are also considered to be socially just.” – Professor Adrian Martin
A Professor of Creative Writing at our School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, Prof McNeil will lead the delivery of the creative writing workshops in the three communities, working alongside local writers.
Prof McNeil is an award-winning literary writer who has written extensively about the environment and climate change. She sits on the Internal Leadership Group of ClimateUEA and leads the research pillar ‘Developing resilience through climate narrative’.
“Writing is a potent way to explore what we really think and feel, as well as an opportunity to imagine new possibilities. I’ve had the pleasure to teach writing workshops to groups and communities in many different parts of the world and am excited to be able to contribute to such forward-looking interdisciplinary research.” – Professor Jean McNeil