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Urban socio-ecological movements and the struggles for justice

A key theme in environmental justice is the work of environmental justice movements.

According to Agyeman (2005), EJM’s do not propose a progressive socio-ecological utopia. They are:

  • reactionary
  • defensive
  • demonstrating against injustices

Urban political ecology has paid less empirical attention to environmental justice movements and placed more emphasis on questions of intense social struggle (Swyngedouw and Heynen, 2003):

  • ‘How are socio-natural relations produced?’
  • ‘By whom?’
  • ‘For whom?’

From the ground up (Cole and Foster, 2001), EJM’s can improve the lives of disadvantaged communities:

  • better their consciousness of injustice
  • increase their self-confidence, capacity and expertise (p. 153)

However, EJM’s have only half succeeded in preventing environmental injustice (e.g. many TSDF’s are still built in disadvantaged communities).

It is surprising that environmental justice criticises social structures and injustices but not EJM’s! (Brulle and Pellow, 2005).


Scale and place have to be regarded as contested, in flux and relational (Massey, 2007; Swyngedouw and Heynen, 2003).

There is a growing interconnection between:

Click here to read all the topics on which further research about urban socio-ecological movements is needed.


Urban political ecology

Urban political ecology (UPE) is a school of critical urban political-environmental research (Heynen et al. 2006b) which complements the view of Environmental Justice:

On the basis of the school of urban political ecology there are three main thinkers:


Click here to read references to some urban political ecology monographs.

The main ideas of urban political ecology are:


To sum up:

However, the two approaches are compatible: