Environmental governance in an increasingly complex world: reflections on transdisciplinary collaborations for knowledge co‐production and learning
Special Issue in the journal of Environmental Policy and Governance
Volume29, Issue2 March/April 2019, Pages 83-86.
Contemporary environmental challenges are complex, span across temporal and spatial scales, and impact a range of diverse social groups. For this reason many have advocated the need for contemporary research not only to develop in-depth interdisciplinary understaning of these challenges, but also to forge collaborations with societal actors to that end. However, collaborations of this type where the scientist works shoulder to shoulder with different stakeholders in order to ensure that research adequately reflects the context, needs, and perspectives of multiple groups, are challenging. These collaborations, among other things, bring forward questions about the way knowledge is produced, accessed, integrated and used. With the aim to contribute to the on-going debate on this topic researchers and practitioners joined forces and contributed to a special issue with summaries of research done across the Global South and Global North.
This special issue was Guest Edited by Romina Rodela (Södertörn University) and Åsa Gerger Swartling (SEI).
The five papers and the editorial can be accessed here:
By Camille Emma Rinaldi & Romina Rodela
Pressure from environmental pollution on urban settlements is a main environmental issue across Europe, and elsewhere. Recent reports from the World Health Organization warn against the negative effect of pollution on human health. For instance exposure to particulate matter (PM) may reduce life expectancy (average of 1 year), and increase the k of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and of lung cancer.
The city of Taranto, in the South of Italy, hosts four industrial plants: an Italian navy shipyard, the cement plant Cementir, the oil refinery ENI and the steel plant Ilva. These industrial hubs have been pressuring the environment and citizens’ health since the 1960s. The area is under high pollution pressure and (water, air and soil) and already in 1997 was declared as area subjected to environmental crisis.
Of a great concern is the pollution coming from the Ilva factory. This plant is 2,5 times of the size of the Taranto city itself on the map below the size of the plan seen on the left side of the can be seen (Aip-Petroli-Ilva). The plant is the source of multiple-pollutants. For instance emission of dioxin from the blast furnaces and the uncontrolled emissions spilling out of the A312 chimney; the open air mining stocks which cause dispersion of particles of benzopyrene, copper, lead, and carbon monoxide when the wind blows; and the contamination of the water used to chill the steel products, which is afterwards released back into the sea.
A study, ordered as part to a preliminary inquiry, assumed that in the period from 2004 to 2010, the pollution was responsible for 91 deaths, 160 cases of heart diseases and 219 cases of respiratory diseases (Eidemiological Report, 2012). While these facts were available only in July 2012, since 2008 a fervent environmental activism has steadily grown in the town.
It all began with a piece of cheese a local farmer, together with a local activists, took to an independent lab to be analysed for toxic substances. A high level of dioxin, found to be coming from the A312 chimney at Ilva, was found in the block of cheese. Since then, dioxin was found in the farming land around 5 kilometres from Ilva, in mussels and even in human blood and urine.
That event launched the start of an important inquiry which grew from the protest movement for environmental justice in Taranto. Given the proportion of the pollution many advocacy groups are now active, as we can for example list: environmental groups, social justice groups, worker right groups and groups for the safeguard of the health in Taranto.
As part to the Environmental Governance in Context research project we set to study social movements in Taranto and as part to this undertook a comprehensive scoping study, meant to inventory all stakeholders active in the town. The study identified 51 stakeholders of interest for our project and these were contacted for the purpose of further research as are semi-structured interviews. We clustered these stakeholders in three groups. The first group consists of activists for environmental justice and other grassroots groups fighting for the Ilva factory to improve its environmental standards and decrease the pollution. A second group of stakeholders includes a different form of activism, with organisations like Taranto Futura, Taranto Lider, ISDE Taranto, focused on the health of the citizens in Taranto. As a matter of fact, the toxic emission coming from the steel plant during the last decades had serious consequences on the health of both the workers and of the population in Taranto. The increase in cancer patients, infertility and respiratory diseases have sparkled an intense work of advocacy that translates into numerous demonstrations, many workshops and conferences and the construction of an ambulatory for children with cancer to be treated in the town instead of having to travel to the regional hub. A third group of stakeholders are organizations focused on the future of the city. Giustizia per Taranto, Genitori Tarantini and Altamarea have been exploring and debating alternative futures for the town. They claim in fact that the current economy, based on the profits of the heavy industry, has come to an end and so the city needs to renew itself in ways that take into account the resources and culture that is intrinsic of that area, and that is more respectful of nature and its peoples.
During March 2018, our project team (R. Rodela & C. Rinaldi) undertook extensive field work in Taranto as part to which has undertaken semi-structured interviews and observation. The dta collected, consisting of tape-recorded interviews, observations, photographs and videos, constitute material now processed as part to this project to be analysed and presented in a working paper, and scientific publications later this year.
A master thesis by C. Rinaldi on the different communication strategies and use of social media has been submitted and approved by Södertörn University.
The master thesis of C. Rinaldi can be accessed and downloaded from HERE
by Mary Lesmes
Is environmental protection a question pertaining exclusively to governments and legislative bodies that regulate and implement environmental laws? Or is there space for others, as is civil society and environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs)? If so what is their place in contemporary environmental governance and in which way can they contribute to nature protection and conservation? Environmental governance is a topic of great interest for policy and practice and in recent times it is understood to be a political space where a number different organizations meet to talk about, and agree on, environmental objectives. However, those encounters are not always smooth and coordination over shared agreement an easy way forward.
Many have reported on when, to what end, and how ENGOs contribute to environmental governance and often that is characterised by a clash of views over how given environmental issues should be managed, or natural resources used. ENGOs often would advance a position that defends the need to protect natural resources, and address environmental issues in favour of strong sustainability.
The Slovene case where ENGOs objected to the placing of wind-mills on the Volovja reber ridge is one of such examples. In that case our study shows that the way ENGOs mobilised was strategic, and the steps they took essential to generate influence.
Volovja reber is an area where natural reforestation occurs due to the abandonment of agricultural activities. This area belongs to an extensive karstic landscape and is one of the designated protection sites within Natura 2000 ecological network, which means that this area has a high ecological value. (Natura 2000 is a network of natural areas designated for the purpose of protection and conservation of rare and threatened species and natural habitat types across all the EU countries).
Despite of the fact that the Volovja reber was considered to be an important area for EU Habitats Directive (through the inclusion of it in Natura 2000 network), in 2006 Volovja reber area was removed from the Natura 2000 site list by the minister at that time; it entailed the reduction of the area recommended by Natura 2000 from 54 906 ha to 48 522 ha. The justification for the subtraction was the potential of the area for the development of the plan for infrastructure and the attractiveness that it represented for investors in renewable energy, in this case, for the installation of a wind park. This project began in 2003 but it was not until 2006 when the Slovenian environmental agency granted the permission for the installation of the first 33 windmills in the area (33 of the 88 windmills initially suggested by the project).
Taking into account the ecological value of the area, the ENGOs considered this project as being detrimental to local flora and fauna; therefore in 2003 the Slovene bird-watching association Društvo za opazovanje (DOPPS) manifested in a press release the reasons why the Volovja reber was not suitable for the installation of such infrastructures. This was the beginning of a mobilization that reached international instances and involved numerous actors. DOPPS put in place a coalition of ENGOs which have mobilized in a multilevel context and exerted pressure on national policy-making by appealing to EU Law and institutions.
The strategies for mobilization, the integration of several social actors, the use of social and cognitive resources, and the coordination of ENGOs exhibit how processes at different levels, multifaceted interaction and how local issues could overcome national nodes of power – the so called Boomerang effect. This particular case shows us that despite the difficulties, with regard to unfavourable political opportunities and scarcity of resources, did not prevent ENGOs and civil society from taking action and to manage to orchestrate strategies that allows them to influence and change governmental decisions concerning the protection of nature and their own future.
Rodela, R., Udovč, A., Boström, M., 2017. Developing Environmental NGO Power for Domestic Battles in a Multilevel Context: Lessons from a Slovenian case. Environmental Policy and Governance. https://doi.org/10.1002/eet.1735
By Romina Rodela
The participation of environmental non-governmental organizations in current debates about environmental policy is an important development in recent times (Bäckstrand et al. 2017; Grant and Vasi, 2017, Weber and Christophersen, 2002). Environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) are of different size and range from volunteering groups to those very processional ones. However, what many of these contemporary ENGOS share is i) knowledge about the natural environment and /or environmental issue they are advocating for and ii) opportunities to mobilise different expertise in support of their pursuits.
In the early times ENGO were prevalently focused on education, awareness raising while in recent years they expanded to include more targeted activities as is advocacy / direct pressure on policy maker (Bäckstrand et al. 2017; Boström et al. 2015; Rootes 2013). Of a great research interest is how over the last decades ENGOs began to be engaged in a particular and quite demanding type of mobilisation and that is legal mobilization.
Legal mobilisation are instances were ENGOs turn to national courts for the purpose of pursuing environmental justice, or seeking the enforcement of environmental & nature protection law (Cichowski 2013; Rodela et al. 2017; Vanhala, 2017). In the case of disputes involving environmental issues most often that would involve ENGOs appealing to national courts in relation to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes, reports, and to the linked permits. Such cases take the form of full litigation process and it is worth mentioning that every Member State has its own system, and procedures, in how these litigation cases are handled.
A ligation case with a number of ENGO and Natura 2000 site has been going on in Sweden, also known as the Ojnare case – that is located in the North Est of the Gotland Island. The Ojnare dispute, similar to the one reported by Rodela et al. (2017) as part to this project, involved a clash of interests over a natural area which was declared of interest under Natura 2000 while others sought to pursue economic interests.
As part to this project we aimed to understand the nature of that conflict and the claims of the different actors involved and in 2014, as part to an MSc thesis research, empirical work was conducted on Gotland to that end. Later in result of a growing number of cases across the EU, where ENGO turned to legal mobilisation, we continued the work on that case by focusing on the court litigation. Specifically have sought to map out how and what procedural and substantive knowledge have ENGOs mobilised during EIA litigation, and how that impacts on the process itself.
The outcome of that analysis are summarised in a Working Paper and in a scientific publication submitted for consideration to a scientific journal.
Boström, M., Rabe, L., Rodela, R., 2015. Environmental non-governmental organizations and transnational collaboration: The Baltic Sea and Adriatic-Ionian Sea regions. Environmental Politics 24, 762-787.
Bäckstrand, K., Kuyper, J.W., Linnér, B.-O., Lövbrand, E., 2017. Non-state actors in global climate governance: from Copenhagen to Paris and beyond. Environmental Politics 26, 561-579.
Cichowski, R.A., 1998. Integrating the environment: the European Court and the construction of supranational policy. Journal of European Public Policy 5, 387-405.
Grant, D., Vasi, I.B., 2017. Civil Society in an Age of Environmental Accountability: How Local Environmental Nongovernmental Organizations Reduce U.S. Power Plants’ Carbon Dioxide Emissions. Sociological Forum 32, 94-115.
Rodela, R., Udovč, A., Boström, M., 2017. Developing Environmental NGO Power for Domestic Battles in a Multilevel Context: Lessons from a Slovenian case. Environmental Policy and Governance
Rootes, C., 2013. From local conflict to national issue: when and how environmental campaigns succeed in transcending the local. Environmental Politics 22, 95-114.
Weber, N., Christophersen, T., 2002. The influence of non-governmental organisations on the creation of Natura 2000 during the European Policy process. Forest Policy and Economics 4.