The relationship between the environment and mass violence is complex and multi-faceted. The effects of environmental degradation can destabilize 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 article interrogates this inattention and explores the limitations and possibilities of transitional justice as a means of addressing the environmental harms associated with mass violence. The article makes 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 normalizing neoliberal capitalism both overlooks environmental harm and facilitates future environmental degradation. In light of these claims, the article considers whether, and where opportunities might exist, for "greener" responses to mass violence.
We had the chance to present early versions of this work to the Queen's University Belfast Law School Transitional Justice Cluster, at the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, at the British Society of Criminology's Green Criminology Twitter Conference and at the Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference. We would like to thank our colleagues and friends for their helpful feedback at these events. Additional thanks go to Tim Lindgren and the anonymous reviewer for providing written comments on the draft, and to Pete Manning for formative chats at the start of this research process.
Killean, Rachel and Dempster, Lauren
"Mass Violence, Environmental Harm, and the Limits of Transitional Justice,"
Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal:
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/gsp/vol16/iss1/5
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