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Department of Geography Space, Nature and Society

Geographies of Socio-Ecologies and Just Transformations (EcoJusT)

  • Myanmar ‘Inns’ are privately leased sections of the Ayeyarwady River. While thought to prevent the so-called ‘Tragedy of the Commons,’ research shows that privatization is more often the cause of overexploitation of the commons.

  • In Cambodia, assigning a monetary value to dolphins through ecotourism has shifted local socio-ecological relations from being reciprocal towards being transactional.

  • In Brazil, (capitalist) economic growth means removing restrictions to the exploitation of nature and the people who safeguard it. This authoritarian tactic is becoming commonplace globally.

  • In EcoJuST, we understand that socio-ecological breakdowns are political issues that stem from particular ways of valuing (‘different’) humans and the rest of nature.

  • Beyond critique, we in EcoJuST seek to understand and offer practical solutions that get to the roots of the global ‘triple crises’.

In our research group we focus on questions of socio-ecological breakdown and just transformations to sustainable futures. We use critical social theory to understand the deeply rooted and shared causes of the global “triple crises” of climate change, accelerated extinction, and social injustices. In particular, we use concepts from political ecology and environmental justice to especially highlight the roles of neoliberalization and colonialism in creating and reinforcing systems of power and exclusion that lead to socio-ecological crises. Going beyond critique, we then investigate how lessons learned from our critical analyses can be put into practice in solutions. Here, we work across disciplines and with non-academic stakeholders. We particularly focus on initiatives that aim to transform society towards sustainable futures. Within these initiatives, we explore how putting critical social theory into practice can assist with respect for and inclusion of multiple values and non-Western worldviews. By centering diversity and epistemic justice in solutions, we believe that creativity and ingenuity can be amplified far beyond what Western science can offer alone and that holistic justice can be established as the core of the sustainable futures we envision.

Group leader

Dr. Sierra Deutsch

Group members

Dr. Clara Guardado (Postdoctoral Researcher, Translating Transformations)
Rose Cecile Nelson (Master Student, FIRI)
Dr. Annina Helena Michel (Research Associate, FIRI)
Dr. Roger Keller (Research Associate, FIRI)

Belongs to the organizational unit

Space, Nature and Society

Current Projects

Translating Transformations: Improving transdisciplinary transformative change initiatives by promoting critical social science literacy 

Project supported by SNSF Project Grant (10001A_215132/1). 
The project coalesces a range of knowledge and experiences from sustainability science, political ecology, and transformative practices to address 5 important scientific knowledge gaps in Transdisciplinary Transformative Change Initiatives (TTCIs): (1) how CSS literacy can be improved and how this can lead to (2) better integration of CSS and (3) better alignment of problem-framing, as well as (4) an improved understanding of the role of CSS in promoting better synchronicity among research, policy, and practice. It will also (5) boost understandings on how to bridge the gap between critical theory and practice. These scientific contributions will, in turn, facilitate better coordination of solutions to the three interconnected global crises. More ...

FIRI - ‘Flip it and reverse it’: Transformative change through (re)visibilization of interdependencies among humans and the rest of nature 

Project supported by SNSF Spark Grant (CRSK-1_220573).
The project coordinates a team of Indigenous stewardship specialists, academics, and Swiss nature conservation practitioners to understand: (1) how critical theory on the core causes of the triple crises can be translated into practical solutions in Transdisciplinary Transformative Change Initiatives (TTCIs)? (2) how TTCIs can center holistic Indigenous understandings of relationality and responsibility in a meaningful way that doesn’t reproduce historical power relations and harms, and what does this mean in the Swiss context; and (3) what the broader transformative impact is of the learning associated with the coproduction of a TTCI that centers holistic worldviews.