Resource Politics and Social Justice
Scarcity, Politics, Securitisation and the Green Economy

by Nicholas Hildyard and Larry Lohmann

first published 8 September 2015

“I always baulk a little when ‘social justice’ is framed as a ‘policy challenge’” said Nicholas Hildyard of The Corner House at a conference plenary session on “Resource Politics and Social Justice: Key Challenges for Policy and Practice” held at Sussex University in 2015.

Hildyard went on to question a view of “social justice” as something that can be achieved by a change in policy because “justice . . . is an evolving set of relationships that are never fixed but constantly being created and recreated.” This type of social justice emphasises the building of long-term relationships over short-term, in-and-out, often opportunistic, “campaigns” driven by funding priorities or the need to present “policy” to the next international conference.

Watch Nick’s presentation on “social justice challenges” or read it here.

One of several themes at this Resource Politics conference was "scarcity, politics and securitisation". Scarcity is entrenched as a common sense explanation for resource conflicts, environmental degradation, food and water shortages, poverty, inequality -- indeed, for almost every social problem and conflict: too many people (usually) for not enough of whatever is being discussed.

Speaking at a conference panel session on “The new politics of scarcity”, Nicholas Hildyard stressed how essential it is to understand how elites have constructed and maintained the scarcity discourse so as to resist it. But just as critical, he emphasised, if not more so, is to understand the hows and whys of unsuccessful resistance. What oppositional strategies are in fact assisting elite power? What ways of social and political organising are actually more promising in building or strengthening ways of living that respect the collective right of all (not just the few) to decent livelihoods? Read more on scarcity, polite society and activism.

A slide presentation at another panel session exploring “Green Economy and its others: Challenges to scarcity and green economy – Buen vivir, abundance, affective ecologies, degrowth” explored the promises and pitfalls of alliance-building against the so-called "green economy." The presentation, by Larry Lohmann, is available upon request.

These presentations were made during a 3-day conference on "Resource Politics: Transforming Pathways to Sustainability", held over 7-9 September 2015 at the Institute of Development Studies, part of the University of Sussex, UK. The conference aimed “to unpack assumptions, question simplistic prescriptions and debate alternatives about the politics of resources and pathways to sustainability”.

Many other papers were presented at the conference, some of which were videoed and interviews recorded with participants. The issues were also explored and depicted through illustrations and drawings.