Struggles for environmental justice involve communities mobilising against powerful forces which advocate ‘development’, driven increasingly by neoliberal imperatives. In doing so, communities face questions about their alliances with other groups, working with outsiders and issues of class, race, ethnicity, gender, worker/community and settler/indigenous relationships.
Written by a wide range of international scholars and activists, contributors explore these dynamics and the opportunities for agency and solidarity. They critique the practice of community development professionals, academics, trade union organisers, social movements and activists and inform those engaged in the pursuit of justice as community, development and environment interact.
This chapter provides an introduction and theoretical overview of the book. It explores how the environment is a key battle ground and location for struggle, as economic decision making in the interests of capital accumulation lead to cost shifting onto the environments of those with least economic or political leverage. Building on the lasting legacies of colonialism and settler colonial relations, in the current stage of neoliberalism this environmental-economic dumping has become increasingly acute and systematic. Moreover, it has generated new waves of self-reflective community action and social movement processes in which community development plays a role. Such resistance draws on the rich yet conflicted theoretical resources which have developed through academic labour around analysing the social practices of community, development and environmental justice as well as the intellectual work of ordinary people engaged in material struggles to change the world from where they live and work and make community.
This chapter reflects on the processes of production of the book and the themes which have emerged across diverse contexts. Our commitment to the interface between activist knowledge and academic reflection has taken different forms and generated insights which are often excluded in academic publications. It has raised challenging questions about who speaks for whom, about voice, authorship, interests and justification. All contributors are facing the exploiting and fragmenting impacts of neoliberalism on communities, workers and the environment in different ways and resisting at the interface of community development and popular struggle. Both the impacts and resistance are mediated by settler colonialism, post colonialism, ethnic and gendered divisions, and traditional and new of structures of power and class struggle. Through reflecting on these struggles we are drawn back to the principles of community development in agency and solidarity and how these are continually reinvented in the struggles for environmental justice.