Just What is Just? Planetary Justice Workshop at Utrecht’s Green Office

In collaboration with Utrecht University’s Green Office, Taskforce Coordinator, Elizabeth Dirth ran a workshop introducing and discussing issues of environmental justice. Concerns of justice, fairness and equity are clearly present amongst the students of the university, and so this workshop was sought to explore these questions in a nuanced and interactive way. A core theme and aim of the workshop was to demonstrate how difficult it is to define the concept of justice, both in general terms, as well as in relation to any specific topic or conflict.

Elizabeth outlined a brief history of research and activism on environmental justice, before providing an overview of the current state as well as her work (in research as well as practice). Particularly attention was paid in the discussions about connecting local conflicts into global dynamics as well as reflecting on complexities and nuances of any conflict.

The workshop included an interactive problem-solving exercise where groups were given a situation with a problem or challenge of justice/injustice. They were provided with information which elaborated on the perspectives of all actors in this situation and were tasked with coming up with a just solution.

The nuance and complexity of these cases became clear over this activity and exemplified by the remark of one student in the summary discussion: ‘I just can’t wrap my head around how anyone could think that this (her solution) isn’t a fair solution, even though I know that’s the case.’

This workshop was part of the UU Talks series, which the Green Office UU runs bi-weekly.