Eco- Social Justice

This idea for a group evolved from Harmony Day 2019 in which the community said that they were passionate about issues related to social and environmental justice. After going to lots of environmental/social justice group meetings it seemed that many were working for the same goals yet were not connected. The idea of this group is to pool ideas, campaigns and resources to work more as a coalition rather than in silos in order to effect change.

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Refugee Community Mentorship program.
Partnership with CAFNEC- Storytelling project 2021
Climate Change Forum 2021

The Need for Adopting an Eco-Social Justice Approach

Narayan Gopalkrishnan


Sustainability has become an increasingly important factor in the lives of people living in Far North Queensland. We recognise the fragility of the Great Barrier Reef and the dependence of the economy and people’s livelihoods on sectors like tourism, hospitality and agriculture, all of which are easily changed by environmental changes. Most of us also recognise the impacts of climate change on our lives such as many more heat events, increasing numbers of bushfires, rising sea levels and coastal flooding, and more frequent and severe cyclones.

Sustainability is often seen as a way to tackle some of these impacts; a way in which we can continue to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, as discussed in the 1987 United Nations Brundtland Report. However, this definition ignores the need for equity and justice in development and for distribution within the generation, which is a very significant arena for conflict in the present day. While enormous disparities of income exist across the world, while a large portion of the population is deprived of access to basic services, and with continuing conflict over increasingly scarce resources like water, land and fuel, the vision of a sustainable world is likely to remain unrealized.

The eco-system and human needs are so closely intertwined that they cannot be considered independent of each other. Traditional ways that worked either towards addressing social justice and human rights needs, or towards environmental protection and restoration needs are limited and often in conflict with each other. Environmental protection can be at the cost of the poorest and most marginalised groups of society, while social justice initiatives could easily impact adversely on the environment. Further, there is the consideration that the effects of climate change are falling disproportionately on the less economically privileged as well as the most vulnerable sections of society. Groups at the greatest risk of the psychosocial shock of climate change include women, children, the elderly, the rural and urban poor, racial and ethnic minorities, those with disability, as well as those in Low Income Countries as compared to those in Medium or High Income Countries. Clearly there is the need to work within a framework that works beyond the traditional silos of social justice and environmental sustainability.

Eco-Social Justice is a framework that brings together these two areas into a integrated approach that addresses human wellbeing in the context of the environment and vice versa. It recognises the impacts of the environment on human wellbeing as well as the disproportionate impacts of climate change on vulnerable sections of society. It also focuses on the critical ideas around reduction of consumption, especially of non-renewable resources, distributional justice, and innovative and sustainable approaches to human wellbeing. An important aspect of an eco-social approach is that it works across traditional silos and brings together social and environmental activists, advocates, academics and practitioners to work towards common goals. It is also steadily becoming a worldwide movement, with networks such as the Transition Network and Transition Towns initiatives turning those ideas into practice. As such, Eco-Social Justice is an approach that is well worth adopting as a way towards more sustainable and equitable development in Far North Queensland.