Between science and activism: Learning and teaching ecological economics with environmental justice organisations

Joan Martinez-Alier, Hali Healy, Leah Temper, Mariana Walter, Beatriz Rodriguez-Labajos, Julien François Gerber, Marta Conde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Activists are motivated by interests and values, making use only of the evidence that supports their arguments. They are not dispassionate as scientists are supposed to be. There is therefore something antithetical between science and activism. Nevertheless, environmental justice organisations (EJOs) have accumulated stocks of activist knowledge of great value to the field of ecological economics, which sometimes becomes available to academics and influences public policies. Vice versa, some concepts and methods from ecological economics are useful in practice to EJOs. In this paper, we use the knowledge built through the European Commission-funded projects Civil Society Engagement with Ecological Economics and Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade to understand the relations between academic theories such as ecological economics and political ecology and activist practice in EJOs. Some work by researchers in ecological economics and political ecology can be understood as activism-led science, while EJOs sometimes carry out science-led activism. A dialectic and dynamic relation drives the interactions between academics and practitioners focused on ecological distribution conflicts. An interactive process exists between knowledge production and knowledge use, in which one furthers the other thanks to the relations built over time between scholars and practitioners. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-36
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • Activist knowledge
  • Activist-led science
  • Ecological debt
  • Post-normal science
  • Science-led activism


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