Between activism and science: Grassroots concepts for sustainability coined by environmental justice organizations

Joan Martinez-Alier, Isabelle Anguelovski, Patrick Bond, Daniela Del Bene, Federico Demaria, Julien Francois Gerber, Lucie Greyl, Willi Haas, Hali Healy, Victoria Marín-Burgos, Godwin Ojo, Marcelo Porto, Leida Rijnhout, Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos, Joachim Spangenberg, Leah Temper, Rikard Warlenius, Ivonne Yánez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

185 Citations (Scopus)


In their own battles and strategy meetings since the early 1980s, EJOs (environmental justice organizations) and their networks have introduced several concepts to political ecology that have also been taken up by academics and policy makers. In this paper, we explain the contexts in which such notions have arisen, providing definitions of a wide array of concepts and slogans related to environmental inequities and sustainability, and explore the connections and relations between them. These concepts include: environmental justice, ecological debt, popular epidemiology, environmental racism, climate justice, environmentalism of the poor, water justice, biopiracy, food sovereignty, "green deserts", "peasant agriculture cools downs the Earth", land grabbing, Ogonization and Yasunization, resource caps, corporate accountability, ecocide, and indigenous territorial rights, among others. We examine how activists have coined these notions and built demands around them, and how academic research has in turn further applied them and supplied other related concepts, working in a mutually reinforcing way with EJOs. We argue that these processes and dynamics build an activist-led and co-produced social sustainability science, furthering both academic scholarship and activism on environmental justice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-60
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of Political Ecology
Issue number1 A
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Activist knowledge
  • Ecological debt
  • Environmental justice organizations
  • Environmentalism of the poor
  • Political ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Political Science and International Relations


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