Environmental Justice Research Workshop 2023: Climate Change and Planetary Water

The “Environmental Justice Research Workshop 2023: Climate Change and Planetary Water” brought participants together at Chiang Mai University from 11-15 September, 2023. A continuation of the 2022 workshop, this session’s primary goal was to enhance research capabilities among young and junior scholars and academic staff from underrepresented areas and institutions in Southeast Asia. This workshop served as an opportunity for fostering professional networking and collaboration on future research project around the central theme of environmental justice. By engaging with emerging scholars in Southeast Asia, the workshop encourages modes of inquiry and methodological practices tailored to the region’s needs.

This year’s workshop emphasized the concept of “planetary water” to facilitate innovative methodological approaches for participants’ research. Traditional Asian area studies often adopt a nation-state and land-based perspective, which may fall short when confronting climate change and its repercussions. Recent developments in ecological studies and environmental humanities emphasize the significance of water, especially oceans, in challenging this perspective. Scholars like Melody Jule (2020) and Steve Mentz (2022) advocate for a fluid perspective that encompasses all aspects of fluid life and the earth, transcending natural water resources like oceans and rivers. By embracing Mentz’s notion of “planetary water,” participants working on diverse ecological issues can draw inspiration and refine their inquiries related to climate change.

Participants covered the conceptual framing and methodological approaches in workshop lectures followed up with a site visit to the Mae Ngud community whose livelihood depends on the ebb and flow of river waters, and is now threatened by a government river water diversion project that will permanently alter the waterscape and landscape of the community.

Photos courtesy of the Center for Ethnic Studies and Development