In March 2011, a devastating civil war started in Syria that forced more than four million people to flee their homes, mainly to the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey (UNHCR, 2015). Little discussed in media reports, the worst drought in Syrian history, that forced over 1.5 million farmers to migrate from the countryside to the cities of Aleppo, Damascus, or Homs, preceded the civil war (Gleick, 2014; Meynen and Temper, 2014). Drought related water shortage, crop failure linked to climate change, and subsequent internal migration contributed to urban unemployment and social unrest in the advent of the civil war (Gleick, 2014). Historically, disputes over the (re)distribution of water resources have been an important line of conflict in one of the driest regions in the world, mainly through the construction and control of water infrastructure (at least 46 dams in the Tigris-Euphrates basin). Currently, hydrological control is also an important factor in war activities. In 2012, for example, Syrian rebels captured the Tishrin dam and in 2013 the Islamic State captured the Tabqa dam that serves as the most important source of irrigation for the surrounding farmlands in Syria and Iraq as well as of electricity supply for the second largest city of Aleppo (Gleick, 2014; Meynen and Temper, 2014). In November 2013, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Ecuador fined the multinational petroleum corporation Chevron (formerly Texaco) 9.5 million US dollars as financial compensation for social and environmental damage in the Ecuadorian Amazon (Environmental Justice Atlas, 2015). Petroleum is Ecuador’s most important natural resource and has brought wealth and prosperity to Ecuadorians and international companies. At the same time, petroleum extraction has been an important source for political mobilization of oil workers, Amazonian settlers, and indigenous peoples over the distribution of benefits from the nation’s natural resources (Valdivia, 2008). Since 1964, the former Texaco Petroleum Company extracted crude oil from up to 350 oil wells on a 1.5 million hectare concession in
the Amazon, spilling over 60 billion litres of toxic waste and 650,000 barrels of oil (Environmental Justice Atlas, 2015). The contamination of the land and the water led to the dispossession and marginalization of thousands of indigenous peoples and peasants dependent on forests, agricultural land, and the environment more generally as well as to serious health risks such as rising cancer rates, birth defects, and spontaneous miscarriages (Chevron Toxico, 2015). In August 2015, about 1,500 climate activists occupied an opencast brown coal mine of the multinational energy corporation RWE in the German Rhineland to shut down one of Europe’s biggest CO2 emission sites (Jordan, 2015). Globally, coal is the single biggest driver of climate change through the associated greenhouse gas emissions, and scientists argue that 80 per cent of coal deposits need to be kept in the ground in order to prevent the most devastating effects of climate change (McGlade and Ekins, 2015). In Germany, despite efforts in renewable energy production to drastically reduce CO2 emissions (German Renewable Energy Act), 45 per cent of electricity is still produced from coal (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2015). The temporary shutdown of the mine constituted an important focal point for the transnational climate movement in the run-up to the international climate negotiations in Paris and called on Germany’s responsibility for global climate justice, that is, to immediately cut emissions from fossil fuels in line with international obligations (Darby, 2015). These three examples illustrate the multiple causes and sites of resource conflicts and justice claims (e.g. local environmental destruction and health impacts, uneven distribution of natural resources and related benefits, climate change). At the same time, the examples shed light on the diverse forms of resistance to resource injustice as well as the instruments used to claim and access fairness and justice (e.g. legal means, migration, sabotage, occupation of extraction sites). Although political, scientific, and media debates regularly refer to fairness and justice when it comes to resource politics, the applied conceptions and underlying meanings are diverse, vague, and often contradictory. In the academic literature, explicit conceptions of resource fairness and justice have been mostly advanced based upon liberal global justice and international (human rights) law. These approaches suggest an agreed-upon and universal understanding of justice that often fails to materialize in practice. Case studies from different social science backgrounds show that in concrete resource conflicts different notions of fairness and justice often compete with each other; that is, the very definition of justice is at stake. In other words, apart from economic (distributional) aspects, environmental and social concerns, questions of inclusion and democracy, references to sacredness, or cultural and aesthetic values may be brought forward (Martínez-Alier et al., 2010). This edited volume on Fairness and Justice in Natural Resource Politics aims to contribute to the debate on resource politics from a fairness and
justice perspective. The volume critically assesses different approaches to and conceptualizations of resource fairness and justice (e.g. liberal global justice, political economy, political ecology) and applies them to resource conflicts (e.g. conflicts over agriculture, biodiversity, mining, water) at various scales (local, national, international). In doing so, the contributions critically assess initiatives and instruments in public and private resource governance (e.g. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), private standards, international conventions, commodity derivative markets) and take into account the interplay between political scales, regions, resources, and power relations in glocalized resource politics.