Environmental Justice Atlas

Cartographies for Resistance
An open-access online atlas that catalogues social conflict over environmental issues around the world as part of a drive for greater transparency and a culture of critical inquiry


Throughout the world people fight to defend their land, air and water ways, forests, and socioeconomic livelihoods from extractive projects that harm environments and communities through mining, damming, monoculture tree plantations, fracking, gas flaring, waste disposal, and so on. Much of the global economy operates in commodity chains of extraction, processing, and disposal, whereby climate and social damages are outsourced which results in burdening the world’s poorest and most marginalised peoples. Such commodity chains are rarely visible to citizens or consumers of the end products as the exploitative actions that cause climate breakdown are often hidden from view.


In 2015 a group of researchers in Barcelona devised the Environmental Justice Atlas to tell the stories of communities struggling for environmental justice. Using an interactive world map on a website, the Atlas functions as a catalogue of issues and a starting point for concerned citizens and activist groups to gain information and to see the work of similar groups elsewhere. The Atlas highlights claims and testimonies, calling for corporate and state responsibility for climate and social injustice.

The Atlas is made by hundreds of collaborators, including academic researchers, concerned citizens, informal committees, NGOs, and other activist groups.1Environmental Justice Atlas. <https://ejatlas.org/> [Accessed 5 November 2023]. All data are moderated by the editorial team who double check the information. Anyone can create an account and contact the editorial team to contribute information. A commenting function is available on each page representing an “ecological conflict” in order to facilitate discussion.2Mariana Walter, and Lucrecia Wagner, ‘Mining Struggles in Argentina. The Keys of a Successful Story of Mobilisation’. The Extractive Industries and Society 8, 4 (1 December 2021): 100940 <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2021.100940>

Cases are added to the Atlas, which maps conflicts across 10 categories (nuclear, mineral ores and building extractions, etc.) if they fulfil one or more criteria for environmental conflict:

“Economic activity or legislation with actual or potential negative environmental and social outcomes; Claim and mobilization by environmental justice organization(s) that such harm occurred or is likely to occur as a result of that activity; Reporting of that particular conflict in one or more media stories.“3Walter and Wagner, ‘Mining Struggles in Argentina’.

Clicking on the map, visitors to the Atlas website can access a database that contains information on investors, stakeholders and the impacts of their trade deals, basic data regarding the source and nature of a conflict, outlines of impacts, outcomes, legislation, related academic research, videos, and pictures.

Since 2015, further maps have been developed for the Atlas in collaboration with ongoing campaigns or research projects. These show a number of socioeconomic indicators in the form of colour intensity (known as choropleth maps) They indicate GDP, poverty or material extraction, for example, or represent different types of land uses and biophysical parameters such as pasture lands, forests, or areas with water scarcity. Geodata stem from national planning agencies, international agencies, and organisations working on specific issues such as shale gas (www.unconventionalenergyresources.com) or land use (www.globallandproject.org). Socioeconomic data from sources, such as materialflows.net or the UN’s Comtrade, also form geographical layers for the Atlas maps through geo-referencing statistical data.

The website also contains an informational section explaining that environmental conflict usually arises from structural inequalities of income and power, and that environmental justice works to secure distribution, recognition, and participation. The informational text cites examples of conflict and justice issues, including the distribution of pollution and access to environmental resources, the right to participate in decision-making and the recognition of alternate worldviews.4Walter and Wagner, ‘Mining Struggles in Argentina’. Action, the website explains, may include formal claim-making, petitions, meetings, demonstrations, boycotts, strikes, legal actions, civil disobedience, collective violence, international campaigns, and more.5Walter and Wagner, ‘Mining Struggles in Argentina’.

“Growing consumption of resources is fueling ever more conflicts globally. Most of these are used to satisfy the material needs of the rich segments of the world population. But over-consumption by the rich visits ecological violence on the poor. It is a story of luxury for some v. livelihood for many.”6Remembrance Day For Lost Species. ‘The Environmental Justice Atlas’, 11 October 2018 <https://www.lostspeciesday.org/?p=1110> [accessed 21 November 2023].

Of the cases currently on the map, approximately 18% qualify as successes for environmental justice where court cases have been won, access to common land reclaimed, or destructive projects scrapped.3 Such victories demonstrate the transformative power of resistance, community organising, policy-making and practicing ecologically-driven philosophies such as Sumak Kawsay and Ubuntu. The Atlas provides a teaching, solidarity and advocacy resource for activist organisers, researchers, policy-makers, educators and citizens seeking information about often invisible conflicts occurring behind the scenes of a commodity chain or service. By increasing the visibility of environmental conflicts and the many solidarity movements that face them, the Atlas provides a space for both critical focus and future-oriented hope.


  • 1
    Environmental Justice Atlas. <https://ejatlas.org/> [Accessed 5 November 2023].
  • 2
    Mariana Walter, and Lucrecia Wagner, ‘Mining Struggles in Argentina. The Keys of a Successful Story of Mobilisation’. The Extractive Industries and Society 8, 4 (1 December 2021): 100940 <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2021.100940>
  • 3
    Walter and Wagner, ‘Mining Struggles in Argentina’.
  • 4
    Walter and Wagner, ‘Mining Struggles in Argentina’.
  • 5
    Walter and Wagner, ‘Mining Struggles in Argentina’.
  • 6
    Remembrance Day For Lost Species. ‘The Environmental Justice Atlas’, 11 October 2018 <https://www.lostspeciesday.org/?p=1110> [accessed 21 November 2023].