RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017

RGS-IBG Logo

237 Making Injustice visible: cross-disciplinary representational techniques and processes of Spatial & Environmental Injustice and Environmental Conflicts
Affiliation Geographies of Justice Research Group
Convenor(s) Chiara Certomà (Centre for Sustainable Development, Ghent University, Belgium)
Federico Martellozzo (University of Rome, Italy)
Chair(s) Chiara Certomà (Centre for Sustainable Development, Ghent University, Belgium)
Federico Martellozzo (University of Rome, Italy)
Timetable Thursday 31 August 2017, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Session abstract The section is aimed at improving the theoretical and methodological background to investigate spatial justice via a cross-disciplinary research; in particular we focus on the spatio-temporal distribution of socio-environmental conflicts, on the mix of qualitative and quantitative methods that can proficiently support environmental justice definition/recognition, and on the linkages with policy oriented research.

Since the early ‘70s the debate on spatial justice attracted a broad scholarly interest by showing how the circumstances in which different social groups live play a major role in determining their wealth, opportunity, health outcomes, educational attainment and virtually influence all aspects of life’s quality (Harvey, 1973; 1996; Lefebvre, 1991; Soja, 1989, 2010). The unequal distribution of reseources and possibilities overlaps the unequal economic and social power distribution occurring through the social body (I.M. Young 1990; Haughton, 1999). More recently, social research established that, amongst other burdens, environmental problems are not randomly distributed in space and they do affect some people more than others. The link between spatial justice and environmental issues (Homer Dixon, 1994; Agyeman 2005; Dryzek 1987) engaged scholars’ debate and fueled the disputes regarding its etiology, consequences and controversies. As Agyeman points out (2005), environmental justice has not only to be interpreted from a negative perspective but should also be seen as a proactive tool for accessing and distributing the environmental benefits necessary for sustainable societies with a high quality of life.
In order for this to happen, activists, research bodies and the academia shall attempt at providing an accurate, detailed and punctual representation of spatial&environmental injustice (e.g. http://www.politicalecology.eu/) and the related conflicts (e.g. http://www.ejolt.org/).

Nevertheless the fuzziness of theoretical definition, together with its breadth (spamming across a vast number of disciplinary fields) made it difficult to fully appreciate the multilayered and cross-scalar consequences of spatial injustice, most notably the socio-environmental conflicts. The narrative and the representation of spatial&environmental injustices and subsequent conflicts through geographic, qualitative and quantitative data (which can prove to be reliable, scientifically accurate and complete) is of capital importance for a full consideration in both academic debate, and in decision support system and policy-making processes.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2017@rgs.org
Injustice for whom? Spatial justices and the idea of development
Jukka Keski-Filppula (University of Oulu, Finland)
The paper evaluates theoretical background between spatial justices and different forms of development which are often seen as separate phenomena. In contrast to that, this paper is based on the idea where both phenomena are seen as different points of views on the same reality: spatial distribution of different kind of benefits and burdens. By using the theoretical ideas of Henri Lefebvre paper shows how the nonhuman bodies like Marxism, liberalism and environment movement, are producing at the same time different kind of spatial justices and abstract forms of development based on their own ontological code. State spaces and generation units are reproducing own national reality of spatial justices and development by using the code given by Marxism, liberalism, environment movement or some other comprehensive doctrine. By doing so, they are still sharing some supranational spatial justices and development qualities between each other. The ontological relation between spatial justices and different forms of development is often understood as coded phenomena given in advance from the abstract and social space. Still the absolute space keeps the relation open. The main contribution of the paper is to show that because spatial justices and forms of development are produced inside the same spaces by different bodies in different periods of spatial history which means that also the ontological relation between spatial justice and development is always also strongly produced through conflicts in the ongoing empirical coded spatial context.
Negotiating "Creata" between the imperial space time and vulnerable places
Eija Merilainen (Hanken School of Economics, Finland)
Disasters have become the new normal in the Anthropocene. In international politics, the paradigm has been shifting from securing against disaster risks towards living resiliently with them. Indigenous and vulnerable communities are now lifted up as successful examples of populations that not only know how to live with natural hazards, but are seen to contribute the least to the disastrous march of modernity fueling them through climate change and other forms of environmental degradation. Yet, simultaneously as situated knowledge, place-based understanding and resilience are being lifted up as an antidote against disastrous modernity, the (post)modernity has not stopped marching on. Hardt and Negri (2000) posit that while imperialism might be over, the Empire still extends one rule over the totality of "civilized" populations and space. This Empire is decentered and deterritorializing, and knows no temporal boundaries. Hence while indigenous and vulnerable populations are now expected to (continue to) exhibit place-based resilience in the present of the Anthropocene, the Empire still swaggers in the space-time, securing the future of its aristocracy through propping robust the lives of a limited population. When conducting research in the context of disasters many researchers implicitly seek justice, negotiating between the space time of the Empire and the places of the "field". But how does this normative gearing towards justice guide the research process, and particularly the collection and creation of data - or "creata"? Are there differences between qualitative and quantitative methods?
Spatial Inequalities and Urban Form in Mexican Cities
Ruben Garnica-Monroy (Tecnologico de Monterrey)
Seraphim Alvanides (Northumbria University, UK)
With a population of more than 120 million people, Mexico is the third largest country in America. Most of the Mexican cities suffer from socioeconomic inequalities. A number of studies have been published looking at the improper provision or location of public services and how it may affect those on lower incomes. However, very few studies in Mexico have used spatial accessibility as a variable to explain urban inequalities and further on, as a means of better city-planning. Our hypothesis is that these inequalities are worsened by spatial inequalities, resulting from their urban form and bad-location decisions. The substantive aim of this project is to investigate the role of urban form in manifested spatial inequalities across 24 of 59 of the Mexican metropolitan areas with more than 500,000 inhabitants. In order to achieve this, we combine secondary data with sophisticated geospatial analysis. In particular, three sets of geographical data will be analysed. First, spatial accessibility of each city at different scales will be calculated using Space Syntax to observe how its configuration possibly influences the distribution of activities and the way the inhabitants live and move. Second, locating the most important urban services, i.e. health, education, government and food-supply, and according to its scale, generate catchment areas that show the real number of people they serve (and not the official number they should). The third type is demographic data that will evidence characteristics of population.
Environmental conflicts in the new Chilean forest landscape: a political ecology approach
Enrique Aliste (Universidad de Chile, Chile)
From 1974, several changes were occurred in the landscape of Chile Central. One of the most important is the radical mutation by forest plantation policy, with transformations in economical, ecological, social, cultural and political dimensions. In fact, this last summer, a half of million hectares are burned in one of the most destructive fires in the Chilean history, emerging several hidden conflicts and contesting the forest policies and the role of different agents in the land use policy in general.

This study seeks to address social and environmental conflicts that may arise due to changes in the assessment and perception of the mutations of the landscape. To do this, it addresses land-use changes in coastal regions of Bio-Bio and Maule, concentrating on the forestry sector and its expansion in the last 40 years. In this way, seeks to work the issue from the political ecology, stressing how to interpret and construct a reading of that process. This, it does so from the social and cultural geography, environmental history, social anthropology and development, and landscape ecology. It is held from the conceptual point of view, that as important as the physical changes are those that occur at the level of representations and imaginary, for development discourses exert an important influence on how to understand these new territories and ways of inhabit.
Can the globally emerging movement of political gardening work as a correction mechanism for spatial injustice in the city?
Chiara Certomà (Centre for Sustainable Development, Ghent University, Belgium)
Federico Martellozzo (University of Rome, Italy)
This work focuses on the potential linkages between socially-committed urban gardening initiatives (here named as political gardening, PG) and spatial injustice in cities. Social-environmental disparities within the urban environment have been thoroughly investigated and often associated with the emergence of severe and pervasive injustice instances; since PG practices tend to challenge current conditions of pervasive inequalities through the proposition of alternative access to space, natural resources and services, we consider PG emergence a potential proxy to explicit the spatial dimension of considerable living conditions disparities
More specifically this research wants to investigate whether the globally emerging movement of PG may work as a correction mechanism for spatial injustice conditions in the city.

There is now a growing body of literature exploring the different forms and aims of PG (ranging from food policy contestation, to gentrification, to informal planning etc.); however little attention has been devoted to the analysis of the relationship between justice theory and PG initiatives, particularly in its quali-quantitive aspects. This work is built on the hypothesis that PG can be actually interpreted as a tentative answer to socio-environmental disparities.

The case study grounds on the analysis on relevant data about urban gardening initiatives in Rome, and it features a GIS-based application aiming at exploring the relationship between the geographical distributions of PG initiatives and the presence and magnitude of spatial justice indicators which jeopardise urban space in social and environmental terms.

We apply simple statistical correlation analysis to geographically explicit data, in order to narrow and identify the most significant injustice-related variables that can satisfactorily explain the distribution of PG initiatives. The aims of our work are twofold: on the one hand, case-study specific results are discussed in the perspective of understanding whether the location of PG initiatives - aiming at advancing socio-political claims toward a more just social and spatial setting of the urban space - matches the distribution of spatial injustice severity. On the other hand, to offer an attempt to further understand the deep correlations between specific socio-spatial configuration – which can nevertheless be generalised to other northern cities – and the possibility for collective agency aimed at fostering a sustainable yet equitable transition to take location-based relevant action. Furthermore, from a theoretical perspective, we want to discuss and challenge the current interpretation of urban gardening as a mean to address environmental issues and re-thinking public space planning practices in the cities, by problematizing the relevance of spatial justice, social cohesion, inclusiveness, social innovations and equity.