Doctoral INPhINIT Fellowships Programme – Incoming. Call for applications 2020
HOSTING INSTITUTION: ICTA – UAB Institute of Environmental Science and Technology
The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) is a university centre that promotes academic research and postgraduate education in the environmental sciences. It aims to improve our understanding of global environmental change, and the nature and causes of environmental problems. In addition, it studies policies, strategies and technologies to foster a transition to a sustainable economy.
ICTA-UAB researchers devote much attention to climate and global change studies, following a transdisciplinary approach that ranges from the Natural Sciences to Engineering and Social Sciences. ICTA-UAB stands out among the environmental science institutes in Spain and Europe, in that it has achieved a rare balance of Natural, Social and Engineering Sciences in studying the various dimensions of climate and global change and climate policy.
The ICTA-UAB was accredited with the highest institutional recognition of scientific research in Spain (‘María de Maeztu’ Unit of Excellence 2015 (MDM-2015-0552)) by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. Currently, the ICTA –UAB is the only research center in environmental sciences that is accredited with this title. It is implementing a strategic research programme (2016-2019) intended to consolidate its scientific capabilities, contribute to the leadership of Spanish research and act as an international pole of attraction for talent.
The ICTA -UABis offering two masters and one doctoral (PhD) programmes within the postgraduate education system of the UAB (www.uab.es/postgraduate). The PhD programme offers the opportunity to start an environmental science research career in a stimulating, dynamic, international, inter-disciplinary and highly qualified working environment. It is adapted to the new European Higher Education Area (EHEA), leading to an EU officially-recognized doctoral degree. The PhD programme has been awarded the official quality label of the Spanish government.
ICTA-UAB PhD practical training courses are specifically devoted to PhD students and early-career postdoctoral researchers, covering topics such as team building and team collaboration for research, scientific writing, effective communication, planning your academic and non-academic career.
A recent article in Nature Sustainability found that “No country currently meets the basic needs of its citizens at a globally sustainable level of resource use. If all people are to lead a good life within planetary boundaries, then radical changes to physical and social provisioning systems are required” (O’Neill et al, 2018). This means that sustainable development, after three decades of implementation, has failed to deliver what it promised. Why did this happen? This is what this project aims to investigate.
It starts with the hypothesis that economic growth is environmentally unsustainable. Only relative dematerialization has happened, but not the absolute one. Therefore, an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) leads to an increase in material and energy use, and therefore to environmental unsustainability.
In 1987 the UN World Commission on Development and the Environment presented the report “Our common future” (better known as the Brundtland report), coining the concept sustainable development, then launched at the Rio summit on Environment and Development in 1992 -Principle 12 of the Declaration. Subsequent global events relating to sustainable development involved an overall reframing of both the diagnosis and prognosis in relation to the ecological crisis. Economic growth was freed of the stigma and reframed as a necessary step towards the solution of environmental problems. This watering down of the initial debates of the 1970s influenced by the Limits to Growth report constitutes the core of the ’green economy’, a kind of Green Keynesianism with new millennium proposals such as a Green New Deal, and the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The recently proposed Sustainable Development Goals are characterized by a series of weaknesses. This includes: 1) Absence of an analysis of the historical and structural roots of unsustainability, poverty, and inequities and 2) Inability to recognize the biophysical limits to economic growth (SDG 8).
-Job position description:
This project attempts to lay out a critique of sustainable development and investigate alternatives to United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. The proposed PhD thesis will contribute to the search for the sustainability of life by addressing two fundamental questions: 1) What is a life worth living? and 2) How can conditions that allow it to happen to be met?
Sustainable development is still a powerful narrative. Yet its discursive and social centrality has been displaced so that the range of social experiences that are considered valid and credible alternatives to what exists is enlarged.
This PhD project will contribute with 1) a critique of sustainable development, based on an assessment of its failure to address the ecological crisis; and 2) an exploration of alternatives to sustainable development.
A range of different and complementary notions or worldviews have emerged in various regions of the world (what has been called the Pluriverse), that seek to envision and achieve more fundamental transformations than that proposed by sustainable development approaches. Transformative alternatives to sustainable development would:
1) Attempt to transform the structural roots of a problem, along political, economic, social, cultural, and ecological axes;
2) Question the core assumptions of the development discourse (e.g., growth, material progress, instrumental rationality, the centrality of markets and economy, universality, modernity and its binaries);
3) Encompass a radically different set of ethics and values to those underpinning the current system.
This project will investigate the alternatives to sustainable development that intend to re-politicise the debate on the socio-ecological transformation, exploring the critique with the current world representations (i.e. sustainable development) and the searching for alternative ones.
2) Environmental Justice Movements and the Commons: a Virtuous Circle? (Dr. Sergio Villamayor-Tomas)
-Research Project / Research Group Description:
For decades local communities of water, forest and fisheries users around the world have demonstrated a notable capacity to mobilize against government-promoted projects, large extractive industries and other threats to their livelihoods; however, while some of those communities are well organized into autonomous management organizations (water user associations, fishing cooperatives, community forest associations) and successfully manage their resources, others have for long failed to so. This illustrates two potential outcomes of the relationship between conflict and grassroots mobilization and community-based natural resource management (CBNRM). The goal of this study is to determine conditions under which social movements, through the mobilization processes they generate, can support communities’ collective action for sustainable management of resources. This is not a trivial relationship. On one hand, socio-environmental conflicts are an endemic phenomenon of our societies, with more than 1,200 instances registered all over the world. Many of those conflicts have great potential to improve natural resource conditions, or just the opposite. On the other hand, despite the international consensus about the benefits of community stewardship for sustainable resource governance, the reality is that communities often face self-governance challenges related to cooperation and institutional failure.
CBRNM and social mobilization are two paradigmatic instances of collective action, the interaction of which has been barely explored so far. CBNRM research emerged to identify the conditions under which natural resource users can cooperatively manage their shared resources. Social movement research includes a number of strands concerned with different mobilization aspects and their impact on policy. This study will build on recent developments in the environmental justice (EJ) scholarship to facilitate the dialogue between CPR and SM theories.
-Job position description:
This project will build on Social Movement and CBNRM research and the internationally renowned expertise environmental justice hosted at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (UAB) ICTA to investigate the following questions, among potentially others: Are mobilization and management processes comparable across water, fisheries and forest resource contexts? Are social movements that involve the participation of natural resource management communities qualitatively different from those that do not? How do characteristics of social mobilization processes affect the management of natural resources by local communities? To address these questions the project shall: (1) conduct preliminary empirical research to explore how the involvement of local communities in environmental justice movements vary across environmental and governance contexts; (2) conduct empirical research to explore causal relationships between environmental movements’ activities, the participation of communities in those activities, and CBNRM; (3) build a new and original model that integrates social mobilization and CBNRM factors to understand natural resource conservation; and (4) elaborate policy recommendations to better integrate of conflict resolution and resource management policy. Methodologically, the project will aim to integrate multiple methods, e.g., a large-n meta-analysis of environmental justice movements across different environmental (e.g., forest, mining, pollution, communication infrastructure building) conflicts; a comparative case study including some of those conflicts; and/or a series of economic/policy experiments with households from a selection of the communities involved.
3) Environmental Justice Conflicts as forces to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals? (Dr. Sergio Villamayor-Tomas)
-Research Project / Research Group Description:
Can environmental justice conflicts turn into forces for sustainability? Environmental conflicts and related communities and movements shall, under some conditions, contribute to the fulfilling of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs); we do not know yet, however, what those conditions are. This project will address the question of why, through whom, how, and when conflicts over the use of the environment may take an active role in shaping transitions toward sustainability and the fulfillment of sustainable development goals. For this purpose, the project builds on the work of environmental justice scholars pointing to the uniqueness of socio-environmental movements that involve the participation of local resource-dependent communities. This is a project of substantial policy relevance. Environmental justice conflicts are an endemic phenomenon in our societies, with more than 1200 instances registered across the world. Many of those conflicts have great potential to improve natural resource management or just the opposite depending on how they are treated.
-Job position description:
Addressing issues of justice is a fundamental component of sustainability science. Understanding the ways how ecological distribution conflicts and environmental justice movements can contribute to both social justice and environmental sustainability is, however, not straightforward. It requires asking why, through whom, how and when do conflicts over the use of the environment take an active role in shaping transitions toward sustainability. Answers to these questions can be found in studying the processes through which unsustainable resource uses have given rise to ecological distribution conflicts and environmental justice movements, as well as the pathways that such movements have taken to transform them.
In this project we will tackle the matter by systematically mapping the linkages between (a) patterns of (unsustainable) resource use, (b) the emergence of environmental conflicts, (c) the rise of environmental justice movements, and (d) their potential contributions for sustainability transitions. The ways how these four processes can influence each other are multi-faceted and often not a foretold story. Yet, environmental conflicts can have an important role for sustainability, because they relentlessly bring to light conflicting values over the environment as well as unsustainable resource uses affecting people and the planet.