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’ve been looking 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’ has been taking place across three different sites:
Scotland: our UEA team have been investigating a rewilding initiative in the deer-dominated Scottish Highlands. Run by Trees for Life, the project is called Affric Highlands. The area covers more than 2,000 km2, including Glens Cannich, Affric, Moriston and Shiel, but is very sparsely populated.
Czech Republic: our Czech team have been looking at barriers to possible just landscape transformation in the Slovácko, Valašsko and Horňácko regions of South and East Moravia. It’s an area known for its rolling fields and for wine production. As the driest and hottest area of the Czech Republic, climate-change impact is becoming more apparent here.
France: our French team have been interrogating the division of justice beliefs amongst two dominant communities in a valley in Ariège, southwestern France. Livestock farming has historically been important here and continues to be so. However, since the 1970s new settlers have come to the region searching for alternative ways of life, often developing small-scale vegetable farms aimed at increasing local food-sovereignty
Each team has been implementing interdisciplinary research methods that have been designed to help us gain insight into how different stakeholders perceive environmental justice issues. We conducted semi-structured interviews and creative writing workshops with small groups at each site, and a large-scale survey of all three case-study areas is in progress.
We then used our initial findings to help us design and run a series of transdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder ‘Just Transformation Labs’. Linked to ongoing policy consultations in each of the three areas, these labs involved shared visioning exercises to help develop manifestos for just landscape transformations. You can read our Guidelines for Socially Just Landscape Restoration in the Scottish Highlands. The French and Czech manifestos will be published soon.
‘Just Scapes’ seeks to directly benefit the locations and local communities in the Czech Republic, France and Scotland. We’re now at the stage of analysing and writing up our research, which includes a unique illustrated creative writing anthology of texts written by our workshop participants in the three study communities. 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 and Development in the School of Global 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. Our writing workshops in the three communities we are working with have confirmed that creative writing is an enlightening mode of creative exploration and research. Using writing, we have been able to discuss issues and feelings which would have been very difficult to access by so-called traditional methods.” – Professor Jean McNeil
ExploreThe official ‘Just Scapes’ website, discover more about each field site, research developments and news.
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