Introduction

 

The exploratory project "Portugal: Environment on the move" (Portugal: Ambiente em Movimento-PAeM) is the result of international cooperation between:

 

- the Ecology and Society Lab (Ecosoc) of the Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra (Centro de Estudos Sociais da Universidade de Coimbra, CES/UC),

- the Centre for Mineral Technology (Centro de Tecnologia Mineral, CETEM) of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Brazil (Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação, MCTI),

- the Research Centre in Economic and Organizational Sociology, Social Sciences and Management Consortium (Centro de Investigação em Sociologia Económica e das Organizações, Consórcio Ciências Sociais e Gestão, SOCIUS-CSG) of the University of Lisbon (ISEG/UL) and researchers from various fields: anthropology, engineering, economy, history, journalism, law, social services and sociology.

 

We initiated work on the project in August 2014 by participating in the elaboration of the EJ Atlas map of environmental conflicts. An initiative of EJOLT (Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade)funded by the FP7 of the European Commission and coordinated by Joan Martinez-Alier of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), the Environmental Justice Atlas (EJ Atlas) is a tool used to map environmental conflicts globally. It already contains information on more than 2,000 conflicts all over the world. We developed EJ Atlas Portugal, which presents a selection of environmental conflicts in Portugal, and launched it in March 2015 (cases described in EJ Atlas Portugal are available on the PAeM website). For more on EJ Atlas Portugal, click here.

 

 

Objectives and methodology

 

The PAeM exploratory project aims to catalogue, describe and analyse environmental conflicts in Portugal. We have strived, until now, to develop the work collectively and in partnership with the research institutions that launched this process, as well as citizens, associations, coalitions, movements, trade unions and other research groups that were or are involved in the conflicts mentioned, or work related to these issues. The project is an attempt to do science in way that is more sensitive to and engages citizens and society more, and to produce knowledge that contributes directly to environmental struggles.

 

Defining the "environmental conflict" concept is one of the tasks of this exploratory research, which is being discussed and (re)built collectively. The definition of environmental conflict we adopted as a basis for cataloguing and classifying the cases is the existence of processes of collective opposition, resistance and mobilisation triggered by situations of real or potential harm to the environment, society and health (environmental pollution, loss of biodiversity or other natural goods, loss of quality of life and local autonomy, among others). The conflicts are motivated by operations or attempts to establish economic activities in various sectors: agriculture, energy, industry, mining, waste, megaprojects and territorial management.

 

We initiated the data collection process by holding consultations with citizens, journalists, parliamentarians, associations, networks, professors/researchers, movements and trade unions, among others (more information here).

 

We also built an archive containing over 2,000 references (scientific articles, news stories, academic and/or technical project reports, blogs, various websites and audiovisual materials, among others) on environmental conflicts in Portugal. The references were found mainly by conducting research on digital sources.

 

There are currently over 120 documented conflicts, of which the large majority began on April 25th, 1974 or later. The cases were organised by themes/economic sector.

 

We selected nearly 60 cases for publication on the first version of the website. The selection covers a wide range of economic sectors, locations, actions and protagonists (the map and indicators on the cases can be accessed here). We also organised timelines that include these cases and important facts related to the environment in the Portuguese, European and global contexts.

 

The selection criteria was based on the results of a comparative analysis of the materials gathered on the various cases. The main criteria were: variety of parties involved and actions held in public spaces; media exposure and the opinions/visions of the various individuals consulted on the main conflicts. Finally, the cases were rated on a scale from 1 to 5 according to the intensity of the conflict; conflicts rating 3 or higher are the ones currently posted on the website. We plan to increase the number of cases available on the website in the future.

 

Summaries for each of the 60 cases were elaborated. The methodology used to write the texts aimed to incorporate the highest number of references possible. This sometimes led to the inclusion of documents and studies for the same case containing different views on factual information; we sought to expose and highlight these differences. We collected photographs and videos on each case from the parties involved and the Internet, which are available on the website. The main parties and the actions of civil society and public and private institutions are also listed for each conflict.

 

A scientific committee composed of scholars and movements revised the majority of the case summaries. In addition to this, various partners and collaborators provided more general contributions on the cases in which they are involved, which were incorporated into the summaries published on the website.

 

We held events in Coimbra and Lisbon to promote exchange among citizens, associations, coalitions, movements, trade unions and other research groups that were or are involved in the conflicts included in the map (or in others that are not part of the group of selected cases) and/or that work on the issue in universities and research centres in Portugal and other countries.

 

We sent a questionnaire on the website to 500 people who are now in the process of sending us their feedback. If you have not received the questionnaire and are interested in participating in the survey.

 

The process of expanding our list of collaborators and partnerships is currently underway and participation is open to all individuals/associations/movements/institutions/corporations. Contact us!