Advanced Training Course “Governance and Justice in Telecoupling”, 5-7 March 2019.

Written by Joel Persson.

On Tuesday morning, ESRs gathered at the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (or for the non-catalan-speakers amongst us, ICTA) at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona for nearly three days packed full with stimulating content, exciting presentations and non-stop intense discussions.

We kicked off the week with the fundamentals on governing telecouplings, brought to us by Jens Newig. With the conceptual building blocks in place, we gained some snapshot insights on some of the more earth-bound stuff of telecoupling governance. This helped ground some of the theory in real-life examples, ranging from banana plantations in Laos (thanks to Cecilie Friis) to Special Economic Zones in Myanmar (thanks to Chistoph Oberlack), to soybean production in Brazil (thanks to Almut Schilling-Vacaflor).

Professor Jens Newig laying the foundations of governance

Then for some role reversal – the students became the teachers. Inspired by these empirical insights, ESRs had the opportunity to ‘map’ governance in their own projects. For many, it gave a new lens to make sense of some of the things we’d been thinking about; and safe to say we all saw the potentials. Three ESRs, with very different projects, went a step further by presenting their projects from a governance perspective (thanks Nicolas, Johanna, and Simon), and were rewarded with some concrete feedback.

Governance – check; next up – Environmental Justice. Covering two diverse fields of research in two days sound intense? Well, it was. But luckily, we had Esteve Corbera there to help us distil this majorly complex and diverse field of research into a simple question: How many ways can you split a cake? The principles participation, distribution, and recognition can help with this. But how does environmental justice relate to notion of telcoupling? For one, it can help us explain the diverse social, economic and environmental outcomes of telecoupled systems from a justice perspective. It also underpins many of the flows we associate with telecoupling, as explained by Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos.

Empirical presentations by experienced researchers drove the concepts home: Mariana Walter on counter-movements to mining projects in South America, Arnim Scheidel on a large-scale forestation project in Cambodia, and Julie Zähringer on protected area conservation in Madagascar. Compelling discussions from ESRs made the links to telecoupling from these places-based studies explicit. This intense day was rounded off with a particularly challenging exercise for the ESRs: pitch your project and explain how you will integrate Environmental Justice concepts – in 90 seconds. Difficult? Yes. Fun? Equally so.

A course on justice wouldn’t be complete without a real-world demonstration of a pertinent global injustice. Some ESRs rounded off this intense week by participating in the demonstration for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2019.

But of course, there is no better city for some proper down-time than Barcelona. All I can say is: Tapas, so much tapas – and wine. Whether going for a walk along the coast, speculating on the finalisation of La Sagrada Familia’s, or getting lost in the winding corridors of Gothic quarters, Barcelona has a lot to offer for young researchers.

Special thanks to Hallie Eakin. Flying in from Arizona, we had the pleasure of witnessing this influential figure in the telecoupling literature in action not only once, but twice, over the week.

And of course, major thanks to all of the contributors to this super-stimulating course, and to Esteve and Beatriz for organising the whole shebang.

We also welcomed the newest member of our COUPLED family, Pin, who flew in from Bangkok to meet us in this exciting week! You will read more about Pin in a future blog post. Next, we set off for suburban Barcelona for a week of writing escapades.

Setting off for the hinterlands of Barcelona

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