Communities reclaiming power and social justice in the face of climate change


As the climate crisis accelerates and disproportionately affects marginalised communities and countries in the global South, the need for power and social justice approaches is particularly important. Community psychology, with a long interest in the impacts of power discrepancies on the well-being of groups and communities, can offer theoretical and practical tools for addressing climate change and environmental problems without reproducing or intensifying existing inequalities and injustices. This special issue looks at communities’ struggles for climate and environmental justice by focusing on how they resist, contest and overcome power inequalities. The issue consists of one perspective and six empirical articles. Most contributions come from high climate vulnerable countries and regions in the global South. Authors address current and relevant environmental and climate change issues such as renewable energy and natural resource extraction, social transformations and extreme weather events, the links between poverty, rurality and climate change, youth empowerment, and racism in climate activism. Inspired by their contributions, community psychology approaches and interdisciplinary research on environmental and climate justice, we discuss a research and intervention agenda for a community psychology of climate change.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i24212113v6i2-2p1

Keywords: Climate change; Social justice; Power; Decolonizing methodologies; Global South


Abel, G. J., Brottager, M., Cuaresma, J. C., & Murrarak, R. (2019). Climate, conflict and forced migration. Global Environmental Change, 54, 239-249.

Acselrad, H. (2010). Ambientalização das lutas sociais: O caso do movimento por justiça ambiental. Estudos Avançados, 24(68), 103-119.

Adloff, F., & Neckel, S. (2019). Futures of sustainability as modernization, transformation, and control: A conceptual framework. Sustainability Science, 14(4), 1015–1025.

Almassi, B. (2017). Climate change and the need for intergenerational reparative justice. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 30(2), 199–212.

Alves, M. W. F. M., & Mariano, E. B. (2018). Climate justice and human development: A systematic literature review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 202, 360–375.

Anguelovski, I., Connolly, J. J. T., Pearsall, H., Shokry, G., Checker, M., Maantay, J. J., Gould, K., Lewis, T., Maroko, A., & Roberts, T. (2019). Why green “climate gentrification” threatens poor and vulnerable populations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116 (52) 26139-26143.

Appadurai, A. (2013). The future as cultural fact: essays on the global condition. Verso.

Avelino, F., Grin, J., Pel, B., & Jhagroe, S. (2016). The politics of sustainability transitions. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 18(5), 557-567.

Baker, S., & Chapin, F. S. (2018). Going beyond “it depends”: The role of context in shaping participation in natural resource management. Ecology and Society, 23(1), 20.

Bamberg, S., Rees, J., & Seebauer, S. (2015). Collective climate action: Determinants of participation intention in community-based pro-environmental initiatives. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 43, 155-65.

Baptiste, A. K., & Rhiney, K. (2016). Climate justice and the Caribbean: An introduction. Geoforum, 73, 17–21.

Barnes, B. R. (2015). Critiques of health behaviour change programmes. South African Journal of Psychology, 45(4), 430-438.

Barnwell, G. C., Stroud, L., & Watson, M. (2020). “Nothing green can grow without being on the land”: Mine-affected communities' psychological experiences of ecological degradation and resistance in Rustenburg, South Africa. Community Psychology in Global Perspective, 6(2/2), 86-108.

Bennett, N. J., Blythe, J., Cisneros-Montemayor, A. M., Singh, G. G., & Sumaila, U. R., (2019). Just transformations to sustainability. Sustainability, 11(14), 3881. 10.3390/su11143881

Bond, P. (2012). Politics of climate justice: Paralysis above, movement below. University of KwaZulu Natal Press.

Bozalek, V. (2011). Acknowledging privilege through encounters with difference: Participatory learning and action techniques for decolonising methodologies in Southern contexts. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 14(6), 469-484.

Bullard, R. (1990). Dumping in dixie: Race, class, and environmental quality. Westview.

Carstensen, M. B., & Schmidt, V. A. (2016). Power through, over and in ideas: Conceptualizing ideational power in discursive institutionalism. Journal of European Public Policy, 23(3), 318-337.

Carvalho, A. & Peterson, T. R. (2012). Reinventing the political: How climate change can breathe new life into contemporary democracies. In A. Carvalho & T. R. Peterson (Eds.), Climate change politics: Communication and public engagement (pp. 1-28). Cambria Press.

Carvalho, A., van Wessel, M., & Maeseele, P. (2017). Communication practices and political engagement with climate change: A research agenda. Environmental Communication, 11(1), 122-135.

Chatterton, P., Featherstone, D., & Routledge, P. (2013). Articulating climate justice in Copenhagen: Antagonism, the Commons, and Solidarity. Antipode, 45, 602-620.

Chilisa, B. (2019). Indigenous research methodologies. SAGE.

Christens, J. J. & Collura, B. D., (2012). Local community organizers and activists encountering globalization: An exploratory study of their perceptions and adaptations. Journal of Social Issues, 68(3), 592–611.

Chu, E., & Michael, K. (2019). Recognition in urban climate justice: Marginality and exclusion of migrants in Indian cities. Environment and Urbanization, 31(1), 139–156.

Cidade, C. E., Junior, F. M. J, & Ximenes, M. V. (2020). Impacts of climate change on rural poverty in the Brazilian Northeast and South. Community Psychology in Global Perspective, 6(2/2), 124-138.

Culley, M. R., & Angelique, H. (2011). Participation, power, and the role of community psychology in environmental disputes: A Tale of two nuclear cities. American Journal of Community Psychology, 47, 410-426.

Di Liberto, T. (2020). Another scorching month in a scorching year.

Diaw, M. C. (2010). Derrière les mots: Décentration, conservation et démocratie locale. In L.A. German, A. Karsenty, & A. Tiani, (Eds.), Gouverner les forêts africaines à l’ère de la mondialisation (pp. 59-76). CIFOR.

Dietz, K. (2018). The political ecology of vulnerability: How the rural poor are excluded from climate policy. A case study from Morogoro, Tanzania. In B. Engels, & K. Dietz (Eds.), Climate change in Africa: Social and political impacts, conflicts and strategies (pp.107-125). Peter Lang GmbH.

Edwards, G. A. S., Reid, L., & Wunter, C. (2016). Environmental justice, capabilities, and the theorization of well-being. Progress in Human Geography, 40(6), 754–769.

Eriksen, S., & Lind, J. (2009). Adaptation as a political process: Adjusting to drought and conflict in Kenya’s drylands. Environmental Management, 43(5), 817–835.

Eriksen, S., Aldunce, P., Bahinipati, C. S., Martins, R. D. A., Molefe, J. I., Nhemachena, C., O’Brian, K., Olorunfemi, F., Park, J., Sygna, L., & Ulsrud, K. (2011). When not every response to climate change is a good one: Identifying principles for sustainable adaptation. Climate and Development, 3(1), 7–20.

Escobar, A. (2015). Degrowth, post development, and transitions: A preliminary conversation. Sustainability Science, 10(3), 451–462.

Farias, T.D., & Pinheiro, J.Q. (2020). “This energy is clean, but here, on the dunes, it would be dirty”: Renewable sources of energy and socio-environmental conflicts in Galinhos-RN, Brazil. Community Psychology in Global Perspective, 6(2/2), 109-123.

Feola, G. (2019). Capitalism in sustainability transitions research: Time for a critical turn? Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions.

Fisher, A., Sonn, C., & Evans, S. D. (2007). The place and function of power in community psychology: Philosophical and practical issues. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 17, 258-267.

Ford, T., Reber, S & Reeves, R. V. (2020). Race gaps in COVID-19 deaths are even bigger than they appear.

Foster, J. B. & Clark, B. (2004). Imperialismo Ecológico: A maldição do capitalismo.

Francescato, D. (2020). Why we need to build a planetary sense of community. Community Psychology in Global Perspective, 6(2/2), 139-163.

Fritsche, I., Barth, M., Jugert, F., Masson, T. & Reese, G. (2018). A social identity model of pro-environmental action (SIMPEA). Psychological Review, 125(2), 245-269.

Gaventa, J., & Martorano, B. (2016). Inequality, power and participation: Revisiting the links. IDS Bulletin: Transforming Development Knowledge, 47(5).

Gearey, M., & Ravenscroft, N. (2019). The nowtopia of the riverbank: Elder environmental activism, Environmental and Planning E: Nature and Space, 2(3), 451–464. doi:10.1177/2514848619843733

George, C. (2018). Social and political impacts of climate change in Nigeria. In B. Engels, & K. Dietz (eds.), Climate change in Africa: Social and political impacts, conflicts and strategies (pp.149-166). Peter Lang GmbH.

Gonda, N. (2019). Re-politicizing the gender and climate change debate: The potential of feminist political ecology to engage with power in action in adaptation policies and projects in Nicaragua. Geoforum, 106, 87-96.

Grosfoguel, R. (2016). A estrutura do conhecimento nas universidades ocidentalizadas: racismo/sexismo epistêmico e os quatro genocídios/epistemicídios do longo século XVI. Revista Sociedade e Estado, 31(1), 25-49.

Haugaard, M. (2010). Power: A ‘family resemblance’ concept. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 13(4), 419–438.

Holland, B. (2017). Procedural justice in local climate adaptation: Political capabilities and transformational change. Environmental Politics, 26(3), 391–412.

Jason, L., A., Glantsman, O., O'Brien, J. F., & Ramian, K., N. (2019). Introduction to Community Psychology: Becoming an agent of change.

Kenis, A. & Mathijs, E. (2012). Beyond individual behaviour change: The role of power, knowledge and strategy in tackling climate change. Environmental Education Research, 18(1), 45-65.

Kloos, B., Hill, J., Thomas, E., Wandersman, A., Elias, M., & Dalton, J. (2012). Community psychology: Linking individuals and communities. Wadsworth Cengage.

Knappe, H., Holfelder, A. K., Löw Beer, D., & Nanz, P. (2019). The politics of making and unmaking (sustainable) futures: Introduction to the special feature. Sustainability Science, 14(4), 891–898.

Lane, S. T. M., & Codo, W. (2006). Psicologia social: O homem em movimento. Brasiliense.

Lange, F., & Dewite, S. (2019). Measuring pro-environmental behavior: Review and recommendations. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 63, 92-100. https://doi/10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.04.004

Leichenko, R., & O’Brien, K., (2008). Environmental Change and globalization: Double exposures. Oxford University Press.

Levy, B. S., & Patz, J. A. (2015). Climate change, human rights, and social justice. Annals of Global Health, 81(3), 310-322.

Maldonado-Torres, N. (2016). Outline of ten theses on coloniality and decoloniality. Frantz Fanon Foundation.

Manuel-Navarrete, D., & Pelling, M. (2015). Subjectivity and the politics of transformation in response to development and environmental change. Global Environmental Change, 35, 558–569.

Manzanedo, R. D., & Manning, P. (2020). COVID-19: Lessons for the climate change emergency. Science of the Total Environment, 742, 140563. https.//

Marecek, J. (2011). Numbers and interpretations: What is at stake in our ways of knowing? Theory & Psychology, 21(2), 220-240.

Marino, E., & Ribot, J. (2012). Special issue introduction. Adding insult to injury: Climate change and the inequities of climate intervention. Global Environmental Change, 22(2), 323–328.

Martín-Baró, I. (2017). Crítica e libertação na psicologia: Estudos psicossociais. Vozes.

Meikle, M., Wilson, J., Jafry, T., (2016). Climate justice: Between Mammon and Mother Earth. International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, 8(4), 488e504.

Mikulewicz, M. (2018). Politicizing vulnerability and adaptation: On the need to democratize local responses to climate impacts in developing countries. Climate and Development, 10(1), 18-34.

Montero, M., (2009). Community action and research as citizenship construction. American Journal of Community Psychology, 43(1-2), 149-161.

Moore, J. (2010). Madeira, sugar, and the conquest of nature in the "first" sixteenth century, part II: From regional crisis to commodity frontier, 1506—1530. Review, 33(1), 1-24.

Moore, J. W. (2016). The rise of cheap Nature. In J. W. Moore (Ed.). Anthropocene or Capitalocene: Nature, history and the crisis of capitalism (pp.78-115). PM Press.

Nagoda, S., & Nightingale, A. J. (2017). Participation and power in climate change adaptation policies: Vulnerability in food security programs in Nepal. World Development, 100, 85–93.

Naser, M. M., & Tanzim, A. (2009). Human rights implications of climate change induced displacement. Bond Law Review, 21(1), 4.

Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S. (2017). Decolonising research methodology must include undoing its dirty history. Journal of Public Administration, 52(1), 186-188.

O'Connor, D.B., Aggleton, J.P., Chakrabarti, B., Cooper, C.L., Creswell, C., Dunsmuir, S., Fiske, S. T., Gathercole, S., Gough, B., Ireland, J. L., Jones, M. V., Jowett, A. Kagan, C., Karanika‐Murray, M., Kaye, L. K., Kumari, V., Lewandowsky, S., Lightman, S., Malpass, D., Meins, E., Morgan, B. P., Coulthard, L. J., Reicher, S. D., Schacter, D. L., Sherman, S. M., Simms, V., Williams, A., Wykes, T. & Armitage, C. J. (2020). Research priorities for the COVID‐19 pandemic and beyond: A call to action for psychological science. British Journal of Psychology, 111, 603-629, e12468.

O’Brien, B. K. (2012). Global environmental change II. From adaptation to deliberate transformation. Progress in Human Geography, 36(5), 667-676.

O’Brien, B. K. (2015). Political agency: The ley to tackling climate change. Insights: Perspectives, 350(6265), 1170–1171.

Oreskes, N., & Conway, E. M. (2011). Merchants of doubt: How a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

Pareek, M., Bangash, M. N., Pareek, N., Pan, D., Sze, S., Minhas, J. S., Hanif, W., & Khunti, K. (2020). Ethnicity and COVID-19: An urgent public health research priority. The Lancet, 395, 1421–1422.

Partzsch, L. (2016). ‘Power with’ and ‘power to’ in environmental politics and the transition to sustainability. Environmental Politics, 1-19.

Patterson, J. J., Thaler, T., Hoffmann, M., Hughes, S., Oels, A., Chu, E., Mert, A., Huitema, D., Burch, S., & Jordan, A. (2018). Political feasibility of 1.5°C societal transformations: The role of social justice. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 31, 1–9. https//

Patterson, J., Schulz, K., Vervoort, J., van der Hel, S., Widerberg, O., Adler, C., Hurlbert, M., Anderton, K., Sethi, M., & Barau, A. (2017). Exploring the governance and politics of transformations towards sustainability. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 24, 1–16.

Pavel, M. P. (2015). A climate justice compass for transforming self and world, World Futures, 71(3), 1-18.

Pelling, M. (2011). Adaptation to climate change: From resilience to transformation. Routledge.

Pelling, M., Manuel-Navarrete, D., & Redclift, M. R. (2012). Climate change and the crisis of capitalism: Beyond capitalism: Critical theory and de-growth. Routledge.

Prilleltensky, I. (2008). The role of power in wellness, oppression, and liberation: The promise of psychopolitical validity. Journal of Community Psychology, 36(2), 116-136.

Quijano, A. (2000). Colonialidad del Poder, Eurocentrismo y América Latina. In E. Lander (Ed.), La Colonialidad del Saber – eurocentrismo y ciencias sociales: Perspectivas latinoamericanas (pp. 201-246). CLACSO/UNESCO.

Rafaely, D., & Barnes, B. (2020). African climate activism, media and the denial of racism: The tacit silencing of Vanessa Nakate. Community Psychology in Global Perspective, 6(2/2), 70-85.

Reese, G., Hamann, K. R. S., Heidbreder, L. M., Loy, L. S., Menzel, C., Neubert, S., Tröger, J., & Wullenkord, M. C. (2020). SARS-Cov-2 and environmental protection: A collective psychology agenda for environmental psychology research. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 70, 101444.

Riemer, M. & Reich, S. M. (2011). Community psychology and global climate change: Introduction to the special section. American Journal of Community Psychology, 47(3-4), 349–353. https:/

Robinson, M., & Shine, T. (2018). Achieving a climate justice pathway to 1.5 °c. Nature Climate Change, 8(7), 564–569.

Salas, R. N., Shultz, J. M., & Solomon, C. G. (2020). The climate risis and COVID-19: A major threat to the pandemic response. The New England Journal of Medicine, 10, 383e70.

Sarker, S. (2016). A position embedded in identity: Subalternity in neoliberal globalization. Journal of Cultural Studies, 30(5), 816-838.

Scheidel, A., Temper, L., Demaria, F., & Martíne-Alier, J. (2018). Ecological distribution conflicts as forces for sustainability: An overview and conceptual framework. Sustainability Science, 13, 585–598.

Schlosberg D. & Carruthers, D. (2010). Indigenous struggles, environmental justice, and community capabilities. Global Environmental Politics, 10, 12–35.

Schlosberg, D. (2004). Reconceiving environmental justice: Global movements and political theories. Environmental Politics, 13, 517–540.

Serrano-Garcia, I. (1994). The ethics of the powerful and the power of ethics. American Journal of Community psychology, 22, 1–20.

Seyfang, G., & Smith, A. (2007). Grassroots innovations for sustainable development: Towards a new research and policy agenda. Environmental Politics, 16(4), 584-603.

Smith, L. T. (2013). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. Zed Books Ltd.

Sousa Santos, B. (2007). Beyond abyssal thinking: From global lines to ecologies of knowledges. Review 30(1), 45–89.

Sousa Santos, B. (2018). Na oficina do sociólogo artesão. Cortez Editora.

Speth, J. (2008). The bridge at the end of the world: Capitalism, the environment, and crossing from crisis to sustainability. Yale University Press.

Steg, L., Bolderdijk, J. W., Keizer, K., & Perlaviciute, G. (2014). An integrated framework for encouraging pro-environmental behaviour: The role of values, situational factors and goals. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 38, 104-115.

Taylor, D. E. (2000). The Rise of the Environmental Justice Paradigm: Injustice Framing and the Social Construction of Environmental Discourses. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(4), 508-580.

Temper, L., del Bene, D., & Martinez-Alier, J. (2015). Mapping the frontiers and front lines of global environmental justice movement: The EjAtlas. Journal of Political Ecology, 22, 255–278.

Thomas, A. & Haynes, R. (2020). Black lives matter: The link between climate change and racial justice.

Thomas, K., Hardy, R. D., Lazrus, H., Mendez, M., Orlove, B., Rivera-Collazo, I., Roberts, J. T., Rockman, M., Warner, B.P., & Winthrop, R. (2019). Explaining differential vulnerability to climate change: A social science review. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 10(2), 1–18.

Tokar, B. (2014). Toward climate justice: Perspectives on the climate crisis and social change. New Compass Press.

Toomela, A. (2010). Quantitative methods in psychology: Inevitable and useless. Frontiers in Psychology, 29(1), 1-14.

Trott, C. D., Rockett, M. L., Gray, E.-S., Lam, S., Even, T. L., & Frame, S.M. (2020). “Another Haiti starting from the youth”: Integrating the arts and sciences for empowering youth climate justice action in Jacmel, Haiti. Community Psychology in Global Perspective, 6(2/2), 47-69.

Tvinnereim, E., Fløttum, K., Gjerstad, Ø., Johannesson, M. P., & Nordø, Å. D. (2017). Citizens’ preferences for tackling climate change: Quantitative and qualitative analyses of their freely formulated solutions. Global Environmental Change, 46, 34-41.

Unanue, I., Patel, S. G., Tormala, T. T., Trott, C. D., Piazza Rodríguez, A. A., Méndez Serrano, K., & Brown, L. M. (2020). Seeing more clearly: Communities transforming towards justice in post-hurricane Puerto Rico. Community Psychology in Global Perspective, 6(2/2), 22-46.

UNHCR, (2018). Global Trends. Forced migration in 2018.

Uzzell, D., & Räthzel, N. (2009). Transforming environmental psychology. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29(3), 340-350.

Valentim, J. P. & Heleno, A. M. (2017). Luso-tropicalism as a social representation in Portuguese society: Variations and anchoring. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 62.

Walshe, R. A., & Stancioff, C. E. (2018). Small Island perspectives on climate change. Island Studies Journal, 13(1), 13–24.

Weiss, M., & Cattaneo, C. (2017). Degrowth: Taking stock and reviewing an emerging academic paradigm. Ecological Economics, 137, 220–230.

Welborn, L. (2018). Africa and climate change: Projecting vulnerability and adaptative capacity. Institute for Security Studies.

Wilson, G. A. (2012). Community resilience and environmental transitions. Routledge.

Wiseman, J., & Brasher, K. (2008). Community wellbeing in an unwell world: Trends, challenges, and possibilities. Journal of Public Health Policy, 29, 353–366.

Zabaniotou, A. (2020). A systemic approach to resilience and ecological sustainability during the COVID-19 pandemic: Human, societal, and ecological health as a system-wide emergent property in the Anthropocene. Global Transitions, 2(C), 116–126.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.