Call for papers | Symposium on Community, Psychology and Climate Justice

5-7 June 2023, Johannesburg, South Africa

Hosted by the University of Johannesburg, University of Cincinnati, and York St. John University

The world is experiencing increasing global heating and adverse weather patterns, with associated biodiversity loss, natural disasters, displacement, migration, and negative health impacts. Psychologists, however, have been somewhat slow to acknowledge how climate change intersects with historical and contemporary injustices, including colonisation, racism, environmental health disparities, human rights violations, sexism, migration, and extractivism, to name a few. Psychologists have tended to downplay the politics of climate justice, too often adopting an apolitical stance that focuses on individual agency, attitude shifts, behaviour change and education. An additional problem is that writings and voices of marginalised groups are underrepresented in current climate psychology scholarship. There is also an underrepresentation of interdisciplinary work with disciplines such as law, peace and conflict studies, community development, migration, governance and public health.

How can psychologists become inclusive of movements and scholarship seeking structural and political reform, climate justice, racial and gender equity, reparations, and meaningful representation of marginalised groups? How can psychologists continue to work on healing and adaption while recognising upstream mitigation and socio-political reform? How can psychologists grapple with the growing inequities and problems within climate movements? How can psychologists contribute to movements that strengthen decolonised, community-oriented, critical and political approaches to the climate emergency? How can psychologists foster meaningful and conscientised solidarity in the fight for climate justice? How do we close the gap between scholarship and climate movements? What is the role of scientific evidence in climate justice struggles? How can we use politically engaged methodologies such as participatory, decolonising, and indigenous approaches in pursuing climate justice?

There is a growing interest by psychologists in these and other questions. Several recent publications and special issues have focused on a more politicised role for psychology and climate justice. These include, but are not limited to, community psychology and climate change, communities reclaiming power in relation to climate change, the role of justice in climate psychology, and inclusivity of marginalised scholarship in the climate emergency. These writings have focused on deepening the theoretical underpinnings of climate psychology, inter and trans-disciplinary approaches to climate justice, community mobilisation and intervention, literary and arts-based interventions, critical methodologies, marginalised youth activism, and migration. There is, however, much work to do.

This symposium focuses on psychology and climate justice through the lens of community. Communities worldwide are on the frontlines of resistance against the detrimental impacts of large-scale resource developments, deleterious climate change consequences, land dispossession, toxic contamination, and other climate and environmental injustice issues. These and other environmental injustices disproportionately impact those living on societies’ margins, and vulnerability is often rooted in histories of colonial violence and its reproduction in today’s unjust social arrangements. Resisting communities are also fighting for the universal right to a healthy environment for current and future generations, including a liveable climate, participation and fair treatment within environmental decisions, and the equitable distribution of environmental goods and harms. Additionally, indigenous environmental justice struggles often centre land and seek to restitute what has been made destitute through colonial violence. Thus, environmental justice struggles are not only against environmental violence but, importantly, for the flourishing of all life.

We invite theoretical, case studies, original research, critical reviews, and other contributions that may complement this theme. We will also include a broader political psychology analysis that helps frame environmental justice issues. The call is not limited to community psychology; we welcome any theoretical orientation (political, liberation, critical, feminist, indigenous and social psychology) with a community lens. We are particularly interested in the papers that focus on the following:

  • Deepening critical community and psychology theory in climate justice
  • Gender, queer theory and climate justice
  • History, climate justice and psychology
  • Race and racism
  • Intersectionality and climate justice
  • Disability and climate justice
  • Inter and transdisciplinary approaches
  • Critical conscientisation and climate justice
  • Civic monitoring
  • Allyship
  • Cohesion, connectedness and mobilisation
  • Identity and solidarities
  • Decolonisation
  • Youth activism, particularly among marginalised groups
  • Literary and visual arts
  • Participatory methodologies
  • Ethics and climate justice
  • Critiques of individualism and behaviour change
  • Critical mental health and the climate emergency
  • Representation and climate reporting
  • Conservation and justice

Please submit extended abstracts of no more than 800 words covering one more of the above topics. The closing date for abstract submissions is 30 March 2023. Please email abstract submissions to Brendon Barnes hybrid symposium will take place at the University of Johannesburg from 5-7 June 2023, and include a face-to-face (at the University of Johannesburg) or an online option. Selected papers will be invited to submit a chapter to an edited collection after the symposium.