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Claire O'Manique, James K Rowe and Karena Shaw

Endless economic growth on a finite planet is impossible. This is the premise behind the degrowth movement. Despite this sound rationale, the degrowth movement has struggled to gain political acceptability. We have sought to understand this limited uptake of degrowth discourse in the English-speaking world by interviewing Canadian activists. Activists have a proximity to the political realm – both with its barriers and openings – that scholars working primarily in academic institutions sometimes lack. Our interviews reveal that class interests – particularly those of fossil fuel companies – are a substantial barrier to realizing degrowth goals. Interviewees highlighted the importance of centring class-conscious environmentalism, ‘anti-purity’ politics, and decolonization as essential parts of a degrowth agenda capable of overcoming these class interests. We conclude by unpacking how the Green New Deal – a discourse and movement that gained considerable traction after we completed our interviews – addresses the obstacles shared by our interviewees, thus making it a promising ‘non-reformist reform’ for the degrowth movement to pursue.

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Katerina Teaiwa

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Erin Fitz-Henry

Despite the fact that Ecuador has arguably the most biocentric constitution in the world, deepening national investment in extractive development projects has left communities on the frontlines of these projects desperate for greater participation in decision-making processes currently monopolized by centralized ministries. The result has been a flourishing over the past two years of sub-national judicial and non-judicial challenges to strategic mining projects. Integral to these challenges is the constitutional language of rights for nature (Articles 71–4). Drawing on ethnographic research around the Río Blanco gold and silver mine in the southern highland province of Azuay, this article explores the diverse and surprising ways in which these environmental rights are being taken up as part of fundamental challenges to the decision-making monopolies of the Ministries of the Environment and of Mining. While numerous scholars of human and indigenous rights have recently lamented the fact that ‘rights-talk’ often appears unable to arrest or destabilize extractive imperatives, the case of Río Blanco suggests that, when embraced as part of wider social struggles for representation, rights-based approaches might be more potent than is currently being recognized. They may even encourage an important reorientation of some of the binaries that continue to preoccupy critical scholars of development.

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Edited by Anna Grear

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Jana Norman

The scale and ubiquity of global industrialized mining and its proportionately negative impact on human rights and the environment is well documented. These costly externalities, taken in the context of increasing demand for mined materials in technical applications such as mobile phones and other devices seen as essential to contemporary commerce and communication, focalize a range of contentious issues and complexities. This article argues that mining, as an instance of instrumentalism in the human–earth relationship and in many human–human relations, exposes the reason/nature dualism underlying western ontological assumptions. Key features of dualism are described and implicated for their role in the oppression and exploitation of both human and non-human Others. A map drawn from critical ecological feminism outlining an escape route out of dualism is unfolded and brought together with the onto-ethico-epistemology of agential realism in an effort to discover possibilities for a new western social imaginary of non-dualism. The art of Lee Harrop featuring engraved core samples from mining exploration is deployed as a productive site for thinking through non-dualising implications arising from science and new materialisms.

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Freya Mathews

Many large remaining areas of high conservation value currently lie within Indigenous homelands. The attempts of conservationists to protect such areas from industrial development sometimes come into conflict with the contrary wish of Indigenous populations to benefit from such development. How, in such cases, can the claims of Earth communities to ecological justice be reconciled with those of Traditional Owner communities to Indigenous justice? The dilemma is here examined via a case study, that of a proposed natural gas installation at James Price Point in the far north of Western Australia. It is argued that resolution of the dilemma may require a significant re-visioning of conservation: environmentalists might need to concede to Aboriginal communities the moral ownership of conservation per se, at least in so far as it applies to Aboriginal homelands, and perhaps more widely.

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Mandy Treagus

This article outlines the environmental disaster that was phosphate mining on Banaba – or Ocean Island, as it was known to outsiders. The article tracks the tactics used by what became the BPC (British Phosphate Commissioners) in extracting phosphate from the island, resulting in the removal of 90 per cent of its soil and simultaneously alienating Banabans from their land, livelihoods and culture. This process took place over 80 years, finally ending in 1981. In the course of this extraction, Banabans were removed from what was fast becoming an uninhabitable environment in 1945, when they began life on the Fijian island of Rabi. This article reflects on the ongoing legacy of bitterness and grief experienced by Banabans, together with their attempts at obtaining restitution from the Company and the governments it represented. In this context, the art installation Project Banaba (2017; 2019) by Katerina Teaiwa is considered as a response to these histories. The article concludes with an examination of the literature that considers the removal of Banabans as a test case for climate-induced migration, noting that the singularity of the Banaban experience is not likely to be repeated, while also acknowledging the ongoing legacy of loss and grief for Banabans.

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Maria Antonia Tigre and Natalia Urzola

The state of our environment is continuously deteriorating, and the frame of the ‘Anthropocene’ calls for transformative laws that respond to the current socio-ecological crisis. Since environmental diplomacy has signally failed to respond to current challenges, courts are being confronted with crucial questions that fundamentally address whether existing legal tools are sufficient to ensure human survival. In 2017, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a landmark Advisory Opinion that goes some way towards answering this question. The Advisory Opinion recognized extraterritorial jurisdiction for transboundary environmental harm; the autonomous right to a healthy environment; and State responsibility for environmental damage within and beyond the State's borders. This article analyzes the legal arguments constructed by the Court, assessing whether, and how, the Opinion changes paradigms of international environmental law.