Sustainability Science

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 747–764 | Cite as

A perspective on radical transformations to sustainability: resistances, movements and alternatives

  • Leah Temper
  • Mariana Walter
  • Iokiñe Rodriguez
  • Ashish Kothari
  • Ethemcan Turhan
Special Feature: Original Article The EJAtlas: Ecological Distribution Conflicts as Forces for Sustainability
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: The EJAtlas: Ecological Distribution Conflicts as Forces for Sustainability


A transformation to sustainability calls for radical and systemic societal shifts. Yet what this entails in practice and who the agents of this radical transformation are require further elaboration. This article recenters the role of environmental justice movements in transformations, arguing that the systemic, multi-dimensional and intersectional approach inherent in EJ activism is uniquely placed to contribute to the realization of equitable sustainable futures. Based on a perspective of conflict as productive, and a “conflict transformation” approach that can address the root issues of ecological conflicts and promote the emergence of alternatives, we lay out a conceptual framework for understanding transformations through a power analysis that aims to confront and subvert hegemonic power relations; that is, multi-dimensional and intersectional; balancing ecological concerns with social, economic, cultural and democratic spheres; and is multi-scalar, and mindful of impacts across place and space. Such a framework can help analyze and recognize the contribution of grassroots EJ movements to societal transformations to sustainability and support and aid radical transformation processes. While transitions literature tends to focus on artifacts and technologies, we suggest that a resistance-centred perspective focuses on the creation of new subjectivities, power relations, values and institutions. This recenters the agency of those who are engaged in the creation and recuperation of ecological and new ways of being in the world in the needed transformation.


Environmental justice Radical transformations Conflict transformation Alternatives Power 



This work is based on research supported through the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) Programme coordinated by the International Social Science Council (ISSC) and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). We would like to thank Adrian Martin, Daniela del Bene, Joan Martinez Alier, Arnim Scheidel, Mirna Liz Inturias, Begum Özkaynak, Neema Pathak Broome, Radhika Mulay, Meenal Tatpati, Shruti Ajit, Shrishtee Bajpai, Rania Masri, Cem İskender Aydın, Lena Weber as well as three anonymous reviewers from this journal for their valuable contributions to the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leah Temper
    • 1
  • Mariana Walter
    • 1
  • Iokiñe Rodriguez
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ashish Kothari
    • 4
  • Ethemcan Turhan
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA)Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.School of International DevelopmentUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  3. 3.Grupo Confluencias, Latin American Network
  4. 4.Kalpavriksh and Vikalp SangamPuneIndia
  5. 5.Environmental Humanities Lab, Division of History of Science, Technology and EnvironmentRoyal Institute of Technology (KTH)StockholmSweden

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