From injustice to justice – how are geographers impacting the environment?

My previous blogs have been concerning environmental injustice, however I would now like to take the time to talk about justice and how geographers can enable and create grounds for it. As a geographer I play my part in promoting environmental justice by creating awareness and sharing knowledge, however as a student my reach is limited, other geographers, environmentalists and scientists go beyond this and contribute in depth research and time consuming studies to the environmental justice and injustice debate.

Geographers have something unique, a situated knowledge. Geographers recognise the connections between society and the environment, because this is what we are taught to recognise and appreciate. Everything is linked, the world is a delicate ecosystem, and everything is connected, an action in one place may have an impact somewhere else down the line. The awareness of this connection enables geographers to give well rounded and educated advice to other countries, companies and NGOS concerning environmental policy, schemes, projects and law.

Geographer’s contributions can be seen in the development of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) for example, where developing countries involved with the scheme faced difficulties in using high tech monitoring methods and top down approaches. Burgess et al (2010) suggested a shift away from technological methods and illustrated the positive effects well planned community based monitoring can have. Their evaluation of REDD+ in Tanzania demonstrated that embracing local knowledge of trees, plants and the local area increases the effectiveness of monitoring significantly. Local ability to measure the diameter of trees, correctly identify species and monitor changes in stock and species proved to be very cost effective for REDD+. This and other extensive studies on community based monitoring in REDD+ countries have demonstrated that in the long run it is beneficial for REDD+ in terms of cost effectiveness whilst also addressing poverty in the area through creating and sustaining reliable employment for locals. This example promotes the concept of justice through involving local communities in processes and decisions that have direct impact on their lives, at the same time as it protects the environment.

Geographers have previously and will continue to carry out progressive research on environmental justice and injustice. Through research they are able to highlight advantages and disadvantages of different policies and schemes to improve the future of the environment and society, so that both can evolve in harmony. The skills almost unique to geographers such as the ability to adopt flexible approaches and ‘to take location and scale into account’ (Liverman, 2004) as well as the ability to incorporate both interests and concerns of the people involved from indigenous populations to NGOs and multinational corporations means geography as a discipline and individual geographers are simultaneously invested in the rights of the stakeholders as well as the future of our environment. This holistic view that geographers have is evident in the advice they give policy makers, project leaders and countries concerning their environmental practices and results in fair environmental practice reducing conflicts such as those over land rights and environmental services.


Burgess, N.D. et al., 2010. Getting ready for REDD+ in Tanzania: a case study of progress and challenges. Oryx, 44 (3), pp. 339–351.

Liverman, D., 2004. Who Governs, at What Scale and at What Price? Geography, Environmental Governance, and the Commodification of Nature. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 94 (4), pp. 734-738.




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