2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance (ESG 2022): reflections on contributions to just transformation topics

October 21, 2022: Earth System Governance Project 2022 conference in Toronto. Photo by Dave Chan.

ESG 2022 took place from 20-24 October at Toronto University, CA. The central theme linking all the presented contributions was “Governing Accelerated Transitions”.

ESG 2022 hosted over a hundred sections, covering a wide range of topics connected to acceleration and just transformation. These were, among many others, climate and environmental governance, just biodiversity protection, environmental, climate and rural justice, equitable and sustainable transformation, and adaptation. The two topics reflecting just transformation that I personally presented at the conference addressed just rural transformation in Southern and Eastern Moravia and just biodiversity protection in Papua New Guinea and the Beskid Mountains.

Identifying barriers to rural transformation in European landscapes through the lens of justice

The first contribution was based on our preliminary results from the Just Scapes project.

I presented the preliminary findings concerning barriers to rural transformation, applying an integrated justice-based lens.  Specifically, the presentation explored and demonstrated the relationship between people’s willingness to accept and implement transformative changes in the landscape around them and their perception of the environmental justice of these changes in agricultural landscapes of the South and East Moravia regions. 

I also talked about our transdisciplinary methodological approach: Just Transformation labs as a process supporting multi-stakeholder groups in addressing complex societal problems. 

The presentation showed how, through interactions with a range of relevant stakeholders, we have discovered the various actors’ climate justice conceptions, and how these are contested in various places. The presentation also demonstrated what normative concerns act as barriers to a shared vision and what shared norms provide opportunities for collective action. It also included several key topics related to just transition towards sustainability in our study area, namely agricultural subsidies, land consolidation and associated justice issues, as well as the issue of landowners’ loss of connection to land, the question of their agricultural identity, and the market’s demand for the use of unsustainable farming strategies.

The presentation illustrated how creating a long-term safe space for collective learning and building of shared understanding can benefit collaborative envisioning and planning for rural transformations. It also demonstrated the importance of addressing rural justice issues when working with various stakeholders towards transition to greater sustainability.

Finally, together with other researchers we discussed how our research findings provide understanding and methodologies for broader application of just rural transformative actions.

Conservation-development conflicts: a comparative study of drivers of and barriers to acceptance of nature protection measures in inhabited areas across contexts

My second contribution linked to environmental justice was based on my dissertation research. It synthesises findings from two research localities: Papua New Guinea and the Beskid Mountains.

I presented how, through the application of a social-ecological lens, this cross-cultural multiple-case study focused on the social and economic barriers to biodiversity protection in inhabited localities, as well as on the perceived injustices among the local stakeholders, further determining their involvement or withdrawal.

I focused on two biodiversity protection efforts related to flagship species – Dendrolagus matschiei (Matschie’s tree kangaroo) and Canis Lupus (grey wolf) – in two contrasting contexts: The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (Papua New Guinea) and the Wolf Management Program (Czechia).

I presented my analytical and methodological approaches; the empirical, analytical environmental justice approach and cross-cultural multiple-case study research.

The presentation demonstrated the mismatch between the interests of various stakeholders, their expectations, and their different interpretations of conservation across contexts, as well as the power relationships which create stark barriers to the community’s support of the implementation and promotion of biodiversity protection efforts.

I also discussed with the other researchers how the research findings could provide a tool for better community biodiversity protection support, further promoting its effectiveness.

Next steps…

The next ESG conference will take place in the Netherlands on 22-27 October 2023. The call for papers will open in December.

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