The twin challenge of agrarian and climate justice

Connections and contradictions between climate change mitigation politics, land grabbing and conflict in Myanmar
02 March 2018
Paper

Dominant approaches to climate change mitigation are putting new pressures on small farmers and village dwellers, justifying dispossession by powerful actors who cast villagers' traditional ways of life as ecologically destructive or economically inefficient. In order to address the twin challenges of agrarian justice and climate justice, it is critical to understand the way new conflicts and initiatives intersect with old conflicts and the way they are compounded by undemocratic settings, and inequality and division along fault-lines of gender, ethnicity, class, and generation.

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Abstract

When large-scale land investments and natural resource-oriented climate change mitigation and adaptation politics overlap with and reshape one another, the socio-economic and political intersections that occur can be socially and politically explosive. Where and when this happens, ordinary villagers are being squeezed out between land concessions and climate change mitigation and conservation initiatives, justified partly and facilitated by the narrative that villagers’ customary way of life and production systems are either ecologically destructive or economically inefficient, or both.

The intersection occurs in a four-way conflict cocktail: old and new conflicts in climate change mitigation initiatives and land grabbing. Tackling and transforming the four-way entanglement of conflicts is difficult, politically, in less-than-democratic settings. In turn, this becomes quite daunting to address when accompanied by multiple social fault-lines of ethnicity, class, gender and generation.

Having a fuller understanding of political and policy tensions, and taking a stand that confronts rather than backs away from these tensions, is the only way we can understand and harness political synergies that are required in addressing simultaneously the twin challenge of agrarian justice and climate justice.