Interview with @DanyCelermajer about multi-species justice

The winners and runners-up of the Environmental Politics Best Article of the Year Award have just been announced. We’re inviting the individuals/teams to say a little bit more. Below find the answers of Professor Dany Celermajer, lead author on the one of the runner-up papers, Multispecies justice: theories, challenges, and a research agenda for environmental politics. (The other members of the team were David Schlosberg, Lauren Rickards, Makere Stewart-Harawira, Mathias Thaler, Petra Tschakert, Blanche Verlie, and Christine Winter.)

1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be interested in the subject of the article.

As the multispecies justice article was co-conceived and co-authored by a diverse team, to do justice to this question, I’d have to speak about everyone’s backgrounds, which would have us here for a long time. So, on the team, perhaps I will say that the diversity of disciplinary backgrounds and theoretical orientations of the team was a critical part of our commitment to write a ‘state of the field’ paper on multispecies justice in a manner that authentically represented the different genealogies of the ideas, and did not represent multispecies justice as a settled concept of set of agreed upon normative commitments.

Nevertheless, I think I can say that for all of us, our work on various dimensions of justice – environmental, human, animal, climate and so on – has come to feel insufficient. Given the multiple interlocking crises that are unfolding, we have come to believe that we need theories and practices of justice that are sufficiently capacious to take account of and attend to all earth beings, in their differences and relationships. Critically, we are all committed to addressing the fact that political, legal, economic and social processes and decisions profoundly affect beings other than humans, as well as differentially effecting differently located humans. The normative implication of this observation is that this breadth and internal diversity must be a component of the obligation to make those decisions, institutions, laws and so on just.

2. What was the first thing you did when you found out the article had received the recognition it has? Punched the air and started singing “We are the champions”? Made yourself a celebratory drink? Downed tools for the day?

Answering this question means revealing my insomnia and that I read the news in the middle of the night, so the first thing I did was to have a quiet sense of joy that our intervention had spoken to others as it seemed to have and that now more people, not behind the paywall – could read it! Some hours later, right after my first coffee, I wrote to my co-authors to congratulate them on being such a brilliant team.

3. If you had the undivided attention of policymakers for five minutes, what would you say to them about your topic – what needs to happen (or not happen) around the issue you raised, in your opinion

Political decision making and institutions of justice must be transformed so as to take into consideration the effect of laws and policies on all those who are affected. It is simply not enough to bring rivers or other animals or any of the more than human world into decision making in the form of a highly defeasible ‘factor’, which we know is inevitably discounted when compared with the interests of certain humans.

4. What next? Are you working on further articles/books on this topic? If not, what ARE you working on?

Well, multispecies justice is a field with enormous potential and a lot of my work nowadays is nurturing the work that others, like the brilliant cohort of Ph.D students working on MSJ we have at the University of Sydney, are doing. I’m also continuing in this vein of multi-authored articles, as it seems to me to be a terrific way of ensuring multivocality, although I tend to complain that my co-authors are still all humans. As my co-author Christine Winter pointed out though, we are not really ‘only human’ so we can start with our own more than humanness in how we write. I’m also increasingly working with folks outside the humanities and social sciences, like architects, artists, and activist communities, trying to work out what multispecies justice as a set of principles means for their practices. So, for example, right now, I’m part of a global group setting up a network to work on the multisystem unravelling that climate change is bringing and will bring, and I’m the squeaky wheel on the calls asking if we might start by including others at the foundational level and not as an afterthought.

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