Interview with Cristina Yumie Aoki Inoue, Thais Lemos Ribeiro, and Veronica Korber Gonçalves on their work with Indigenous peoples in Brazil and South Africa, and the concept of ‘planetary justice’.

This guest post relates to the recently published article with Environmental Politics, ‘Indigenous and traditional communities’ ways of knowing and being in planetary justice’. In this interview we discuss the authors’ work with Indigenous communities, and developing a ‘grounded planetary justice’ framework.

Let’s start with introductions – who are you, and how did you come to work together?

We are all Brazilian and have worked together at some point at the Institute of International Relations at the University of Brasília. We are part of the International System in the Anthropocene and Global Climate Change (CLIM/ CNPQ) study group, also hosted at the University of Brasília. From different research projects and career paths, our interests converged in this research about environmental justice, ontological and epistemological conflicts, and cases from the Global South.

Cristina and Paula, for instance, have done more than a decade of research on indigenous peoples. Larissa, Thais, and Verônica have been studying climate change and global governance since their Ph. D.s and, currently, are also working with environmental justice literature. Also, Larissa had a research project about South Africa and identified the Umgungundlovu community’s case.

We discovered that working among women whom we come to trust and share a belief in a more just world enabled a collaborative research and writing method that results in a unified narrative that reflects all of us. We have become increasingly aware of how extractive processes happen in research and have been learning significant lessons about co-creation, a process that impacts our lives and projects. We departed from research projects based on cases that have been leading us to unlearning and learning with people, geographical and historical contexts, and among ourselves.

The article uses two case studies to think about planetary justice. What was the importance of these case studies for you, and for this issue?

Firstly, we believe that the concept of planetary justice can be applied to multiple contexts. Nevertheless, it can hide some specific traits of local conflicts and how they are embedded in global production and consumption chains. Therefore, a case study can ground general frameworks and put forward relevant aspects.

As we presented in the article, ecological distribution conflicts are a window to a broad and placed-based understanding of planetary justice that considers a relational approach and the complex relationship between different beings, human and non-human.

The two cases are mining-related, are reported in the Global Atlas of Environmental Justice, and their characteristics fit our research goal of assessing to what extent peoples’ ways of knowing and being were considered and what we can learn from these socio-environmental struggles.

They showed how mining is part of a global dynamic of extraction, local communities’ claims for being heard in their own terms, and the conflict between a growth and developmental framework versus alternative cosmovisions about the relationship between human and non- human entities.

Recognizing the communities’ ways of knowing and being in these cases allowed us to understand the drivers of injustice, make conflicts and the communities’ claims visible, demonstrate their resistance efforts toward environmental justice, and, finally, to think of a grounded planetary justice framework.

Tell me about your ‘grounded planetary justice’ framework developed from these case studies. What changed for you thanks to what you learned from the communities you spoke to?

Our research about the cases happened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, we could not engage with the communities and used documents from the legal processes and letters from them. Interestingly, the Juruna case stressed how the group wanted to avoid direct contact during this period to protect themselves from the virus.

Also, support for field research is short in Brazil and suffered a considerable backdrop during this period. Unfortunately, our research did not have adequate funding to support traveling to distant locations.

We learned to acknowledge the inadequacies and incompletion of justice frameworks as tools based on a Western perspective of environment and justice and tried to propose different possibilities to encompass (more of the) Global South contexts and knowledges, and expand the repertoire available.

Finally, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for these cases. We need to examine the effects and results of interactions between multiple worlds from alternative perspectives, acknowledging the possibility of alliances and coalitions forming amidst conflicts.

Your article stresses the importance of ‘the right to say no’ – tell me more about this.

In the first case—the Umgungundlovu community’— this means that the community claimed its right not to have its ways of living materially reshaped and despoiled by the titanium supply chain. They did not want mining royalties, but their right to their land.

In the second case – the Yudjá (Juruna) People – it means being heard on the communities’ own terms according to their consultation protocols. Furthermore, if there are indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation in that territory, they have the right to remain silent (presumably no consent) and not to be affected by development projects.

Both cases resist projects that threaten their ways of being and knowing and, consequently, the development model. It is not a matter of distribution or compensation but of recognition, for example, that mining destroys the land, the rivers, and living conditions, and this is not acceptable.

The right to say no is what Nurit Bensusan 1 defines as the “ethics of unacceptability”. There are things that are unacceptable and this means to recognize these communities’ right to refuse projects or models that do not respect them.

Finally, do you have more work planned on this issue? Are you still working together?

We are still nurturing our dialogue and co-production of knowledge about environmental and planetary justice that is based on the encounter of multiple worlds. Firstly, processes of injustice, environmental distress, and depletion, like climate change and biodiversity loss, are still putting pressure on the territories, especially communities in vulnerability. Some of these processes hold a coloniality mark and require that we hold such a lens to address them properly.

Secondly, the political context in our country has evolved to the recovery of policies and projects for indigenous peoples and invites us to keep on working. Consequently, many research projects arise, such as the understanding of the interplay of indigenous climate funds, like the Podáali fund, in global climate governance, and bioeconomy projects in the Amazon, like the Baniwa pepper.


Cristina Yumie Aoki Inoue: University of Brasília.( Corresponding Author

Cristina is an Associate Professor in the Environmental Governance and Politics chair group, Radboud University, and volunteer senior researcher fellow, Center for Global Studies, the University of Brasília. Her research areas are biodiversity and climate governance in the Amazon, environmental justice, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and international development cooperation/assistance. Currently, she is investigating socio-biodiversity value chains in the Brazilian Amazon through a global sustainability governance lens.
ORCID: 0000-0003-3696-252X

Thais Lemos Ribeiro – University of Brasilia (

Thais is a PhD candidate in International Relations, University of Brasília (IREL/UnB). She was a contributing author to the First Nacional Assessment Report of the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change (PBMC) in 2013 and is one of the authors of the book International System of Conservative Hegemony: Global Governance and Democracy in Climate Change Crisis Era, written in Portuguese. Her current research projects are about subnational governmental units climate commitment in global governance architecture and worlding global environmental governance. 
ORCID: 0000-0002-8260-4021

Veronica Korber Gonçalves (

Veronica is a professor at the Department of Economy and International Relations, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). Her current research relates to indigenous land rights in the Amazon in the XXI century, forest carbon credits and global climate change governance, and for that she focuses on justice and allocation, considering the contextual conditions of inequality and diversity in the region. She is a Research Fellow of the Earth Systems Governance research network.
ORCID: 0000-0001-7144-4707

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *