Mass Violence, Environmental Harm and the Limits of Transitional Justice

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Abstract

The relationship between the environment and mass violence is complex and multi-faceted. The effects of environmental degradation can destabilise societies and cause conflict; attacks on the environment can harm targeted groups; and both mass violence and subsequent transitions can have harmful environmental legacies. Given this backdrop it is notable that the field of transitional justice has paid relatively little attention to the intersections between mass violence and environmental degradation. This presentation interrogates this inattention and explores the limitations and possibilities of transitional justice as a means of addressing the environmental harms associated with mass violence. We make four key claims. First, that the ‘dominance of legalism’ in transitional justice has produced anthropocentric understandings of harm which exclude environmental harms and victims. Second, that transitional justice’s tendency towards neo-colonialism has led to the disregarding of worldviews that might encourage more environmentally inclusive responses to violence. Third, that transitional justice’s inability to redress structural inequalities has often left environmental injustices intact. And fourth, that the field’s complicity in normalising neoliberal capitalism both overlooks environmental harm and facilitates future environmental degradation. In light of these claims, we consider whether and where opportunities might exist for ‘greener’ responses to mass violence.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGenocide Studies and Prevention
Publication statusAccepted - 01 Oct 2021

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