Record-wet and record-dry months increased in regions worldwide: climate change drives rainfall extremes

More and more rainfall extremes are observed in regions around the globe – triggering both wet and dry records, according a new study involving ICTA-UAB researcher Finn Mempel.

Success at ICTA-UAB: Six ERC Grants In Three Years

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) has been awarded six European Research Council (ERC) grants in three years, from the end of 2015 to the end of 2018. Each project (of between 1.5 and 2 million euros) lasts for five years and allows the recruitment of a team of six or seven doctoral students and postdocs.

Learn to explain your research in 2 minutes and win the Elevator Pitch competition

The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, IBB, INc and ICTA-UAB institutes announce a competition for the doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers at their centres.

ICTA-UAB researcher Gara Villalba receives an ERC Consolidator Grant

The European Research Council (ERC) announced the recipients of its Consolidator Grant competition: 291 top scientists across Europe.

The ICTA-UAB awarded an Erasmus+ for running a project on higher education and research in Biosphere Reserves

For the first time since its founding, the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) has been awarded approximately 1 million euros by the European Commission through the Erasmus+ funding scheme.

ICTA-UAB contributes to bridging science and society in the 100xCiencia.3

ICTA-UAB took part in the 100xCiencia.3 “Bringing Science and Society”, the annual event of the SOMMa Alliance held on November 15th at the CNIO in Madrid.

Citizens prefer landscapes that combine nature with built infrastructure

A pioneering study analyses the photographs shared by citizens in social networks to evaluate the aesthetic consideration of natural landscapes.

Co-managed small-scale fisheries lead to social and ecological improvements

The co-management model of small groups of fishermen contributes to a greater abundance and habitats of species.

ICTA-UAB to design participative and concurred forest fire prevention strategies for the Montseny region

Scientists from the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) aim to design prevention strategies for forest fires occurring in the Montseny Biosphere Reserve through a citizen participation process.

Nace El Observatorio del Besòs: un proyecto de seguimiento de la calidad de los sistemas fluviales de la cuenca

La Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) a través del Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA-UAB), y el Consorci Besòs Tordera evaluarán el estado de calidad a largo plazo de la cuenca del Besòs gracias a la creación de la Observatorio del Besòs.

Shift in large-scale Atlantic circulation causes lower-oxygen water to invade Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence

The Gulf of St. Lawrence has warmed and lost oxygen faster than almost anywhere else in the global oceans.

Climate Change Modifies the Composition of Reefs

Corals devastated by climate change are being replaced naturally by other species such as gorgonians, which are less efficient in acting as a carbon sink.

ICTA-UAB launches the first master’s Degree in “Political Ecology. Degrowth and Environmental Justice”

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) launches the master’s Degree in “Political Ecology.

Pioneering study analyses the effects of forests on human health

A group of volunteers have participated in an experimental study conducted by the ICTA-UAB to analyse the potential health benefits of forests.

Marine Litter on Mediterranean Beaches Triples in Summer

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) analyses and quantifies the waste generated by tourists in eight islands of the Mediterranean as part of the European BLUEISLANDS project.

Mapping the Urban Vitality of Barcelona

Researchers at the UAB have mapped Barcelona and and 9 surrounding towns using a new methodology based on urbanism activist Jane Jacobs' ideas on how cities should be configured to become vital spaces: 25% of the area is classified as having high vitality.

Agricultural intensification not a “blueprint” for sustainable development

Social and ecological results of increased agricultural intensification are not as positive as expected.

Green urban planning must consider social equity criteria

Cities that do not include social equity criteria into their political strategies to make their urban environment greener and more ecological will not achieve long-term sustainability and risk creating green enclaves only for the social elite.

The ICTA-UAB alerts of a new invasive Asian beetle pest in Catalonia that kills mulberry trees

A study by researcher of the ICTA-UAB and the Department of Agriculture Víctor Sarto i Monteys has identified in the province of Barcelona the presence of a species from Asia that could spread through Europe.

More than 120 ICTA-UAB researchers addressed environmental challenges at a symposium, especially those arising from global and...

The Institut of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) organized its 1st Spring Symposium with the aim of addressing some of the main environmental and sustainability challenges.

Low-carbon energy transition requires more renewables than previously thought

A new study by ICTA-UAB analyzes the impacts on lifestyles of substituting fossil fuels for cleaner energies.

Climate Change Threatens World's Largest Seagrass Carbon Stores

Shark Bay seagrass carbon storage hotspot suffers alarming losses after a devastating marine heat wave, according to a study led by ICTA-UAB researchers.

Amazon's indigenous people hunt animals feeding in areas contaminated by oil spills

A study by the ICTA-UAB and the UAB Department of Animal Health and Anatomy demonstrates that the main species hunted by the indigenous popoulations of the Peruvian Amazon ingest water and soil contaminated with hidrocarbons and heavy metals.

The new Planttes app warns of allergy risks in different urban areas

The Planttes application is a citizen science project which aims to encourage people to identify and locate on a map the existence of allergy-causing plants and indicate their phenological state.

ICTA-UAB’s success: five ERC grants in two years

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) has been awarded five European Research Council (ERC) grants in two years, which is about ten per cent of all ERC grants arriving in Catalonia over the period from the end of 2015 to the end of 2017.

New ICTA-UAB 'Welcome Guide'

The new ICTA-UAB 'Welcome Guide' it is at your disposal now. With this document, we aim to help you discover the basics of the PhD programme, ICTA-UAB’s structure, etc.
Tracking the battles for environmental justice: here are the world’s top 10

Date: 2018-06-05



Today is World Environment Day. Environmental conflicts should not be seen as disruptions to smooth governance, fixable with market solutions, technology or police bullets. People are expressing grievances, aspirations and political demands. They should not be repressed. They lead us to a better world for all, argue a team of academics working together as ENVJUSTICE. 

​Environmental justice activism is to this age what the workers’ movement was for the industrial age - one of the most influential social movements of its time. Yet, despite its consistent progress since the 1970s, environmental justice protests seem to get lost in the morass of information on broader environmental issues.

In contrast, labour conflicts, including strikes and lock-outs, carry such gravity that the International Labour Organization tracks these on a systematic basis. As more communities are refusing to allow the destruction and contamination of their land, water, soil and air, these, in turn, deserve to be counted.

The Environmental Justice Atlas (EJAtlas), an inventory of social conflicts around environmental issues, fills that gap. It is funded by two successive European research projects, through a collective effort of scientists and activists. It records the failures and successes of the worldwide movement for environmental justice.

The project is directed and coordinated by Leah Temper, Daniela Del Bene and Joan Martínez-Alier at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. It has collected and categorised about 2500 ecological distribution conflicts. These focus on who gains and who loses in development processes, arguing that these movements play a fundamental role in redefining and promoting sustainability.

In honour of World Environment Day, on June 5th, some of the highlights of the most pertinent findings, stemming from the ten most critical categories of environmental distribution conflicts facing the world today are shown. These are listed in order of most-catalogued cases in the EJAtlas. But due to the nature of the project, this is not indicative of its global significance.
The top ten environmental conflicts

Land grabbing – 600+ conflicts.

Booming palm oil production is behind a land-grabbing surge for plantations, which threatens communities. Palm oil is now in half of all packaged products sold in the supermarket. These plantations replace food crops, deprive farmers from their land, increase slave labour, cause environmental destruction like deforestationwater pollution, infertile soil and fires. Grassroots activist networks achieved temporary suspensions of further expansion of what they call green deserts in Honduras, Colombia, México, Indonesia and Myanmar.

Renewable energy conflict – 31 wind; 326 water infrastructure conflicts

Renewables are necessary in a post-carbon world, but mega dams like Narmada in India and mega wind projects in Mexico, Kenya, India are triggering conflicts.

Methane emissions and cost overruns are hidden behind a twisted sustainability discourse to justify a new wave of dams, especially in the Himalayas, Amazon basin, Balkans and Africa. In response, some rural communities are creating cooperative wind energy models as alternatives to the corporate schemes. These in turn reshape global production and consumption patterns. Also, communities expose the injustice of large-scale dam projects and redefine their own energy transformations.

Mega-mining – 270 conflicts

New technologies, highly polluting chemicals and massive amounts of water accompany mega-mining expansion in Latin America and Western Africa. Examples of this is seen in bauxite or iron in Guinea, gold in Burkina Faso, Senegal and Ghana). Resistance in Latin America and Africa is strong. Often, there is high participation and leadership of women. Affected communities are developing new local initiatives that are more sustainable.

Unburnable fuels – 178 conflicts

The fossil fuel industry, faced with declining stocks, depends on unconventional means and locations of extraction. These extend to oil sand drilling and fracking to Arctic drilling and deep water petroleum sources. It has caused contamination of fresh water supplies, devastation of marine systems, seismic activity and global warming.

This gave rise to a Blockadia movement of direct action. Blockadia connects the various struggles to highlight the global and local threats posed by oil, coal and gas extraction. Massive oppositions have resulted in moratoria on off-shore drilling, litigation over continued oil exploration, bans on fracking, the removal of gas pipelines, and the halting of oil and gas operations.

Trash economy – 126 conflicts

Alliances of grassroots organisations are protecting the health and livelihoods of those living near waste sites by facing down a multi-billion dollar waste industry. GAIA, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives unites communities resisting incinerators. The Basel Action Network tries to halt the flow of hazardous waste like e-waste from being shipped from high-consumption countries to the Global South. The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers defends the informal recycling sector in more than 28 countries. In Delhi, middle class residents and informal recyclers joined together to oppose the privatisation of waste management and the resulting introduction of incineration.
The Environmental Justice Atlas is a collection of cases of communities struggling for environmental justice around the world. EJAtlas website.

Sand mafias – 82 conflicts

Illegal sand mining has ten times more economic value than all wildlife crime. The causes of the surge in demand for sand are attributed to a number of reasons. They range from booming building industry to land expansion to mining of ilmenite or zircon at beaches.

India is a particular hotbed of sand mining conflicts, from beach sand mining in the South to riverbed sand mining in the Himalayas. Hundreds have been killed by various branches of the sand mafia, including activists and investigative journalists.

Fighting for fish – 77 conflicts

The industrialisation of fishing since the 1950s is causing stock collapses and extinctions. Small-scale fishing communities are reclaiming their rights for access to and control over aquatic commons. The World Forum of Fisher People and World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers aim to stop fisheries injustices. Some examples are the ones by intensive fish farms in Turkey or in Chile, big port projects in India and polluting industries in Ecuador.

China rising up – 76 conflicts

Despite government restrictions, China is swept by large-scale protests against the highly flammable petrochemical Paraxylene, used to make plastic and polyester. Protests in Xiamen in 2007 stopped the construction of a plant. Protests spread to Dalian, Chengdu, Shanghai and elsewhere. Together with protests against incinerators, wastewater issues, and coal-fired power plants for example, a new type of a-political mass mobilisation has emerged.

Nuclear nightmares – 57 conflicts

Nuclear power is criticised because of risks illustrated by accidents in Three Mile Island (1979)], Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011)]. Particularly controversial were the more risky fast breeder reactors in Creys-Malville in France, where an activist lost his life. In Kalkar, Germany and Monju, Japan there were also serious risks. These were stopped but struggles at other places, such as Kalpakkam in India are ongoing. Accidents and grassroots movements have succeeded in slowing down the nuclear industry, leading to phase outs in many countries.

Pesticide popularity – 23 conflicts

Despite the impact of pesticides on the environment and human health where it can cause cancer and kill birds, its use in farming is increasing - especially in developing countries. Sadly, it’s usually only when the impact of these toxins have become irreversible that people demand justice for the related health challenges.

In Argentina the use of glyphosate in soybean cultivation is being disputed. In Asia, Latin America and Africa, the use of a nematicide to kill worms threatening banana plantations is being fought. These remain uphill battles.

The environmental justice movement

The case studies and database provided by the EJAtlas support the legitimacy and provide evidence to support the environmental justice movement.

The EJAtlas shows that people all over the world, organised in groups and networks, struggle for the kind of world they want to create, and in doing so, are promoting sustainability. Environmental conflicts are not disruptions to smooth governance, fixable with market solutions and technology. People are expressing grievances, aspirations and political demands. They should not be repressed; they should lead us to a better world for all.

The EnvJustice research project studies and contributes to the global environmental justice movement. The EnvJustice team is composed by Sofia Avila, Daniela del Bene, Federico Demaria, Irmak Ertör, Juan Liu, Joan Martinez-Alier, Sara Mingorria, Grettel Navas, Camila Rolando Mazzuca, Brototi Roy, Arnim Scheidel, Julie Snorek (Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Autonomous University of Barcelona) and Nick Meynen (European Environmental Bureau)

ICTA's Activities