DEADLINE SOON! Call for Papers: The Relevance of Telecoupling to Environmental Justice Research

Related GLP Member: Sébastien Boillat, Timothy Adams, Jorge C. Llopis, Elena Zepharovich, Christoph Oberlack


Session conveners: Sébastien Boillat1*, Timothy Adams1, Jorge Llopis1,2, Elena Zepharovich1,2 Christoph Oberlack1,2 and Patrick Bottazzi1,2

1Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 12, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

2Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Mittelstrasse 43, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

*Session chair

Through globalization, environmental burdens and benefits of human activities are increasingly been felt in distant places. Understanding and transforming connections across distances is therefore a key challenge in environmental justice research.

Scholars from the field of land system science have proposed the concept of telecoupling to address social-ecological interactions over distances. For example, they showed how Chinese demand for meat coupled with material, capital and information linkages drives soybean and cattle production frontiers in South America [1]. Telecoupling focuses on flows of matter, energy, species, people and information that tie distant social-ecological systems [2]. Recent research has brought more focus on the actors that drive these flows and has started to address the governance of telecoupled systems [3–5]. These advances raise questions of agency, power, and justice in social-ecological distant interactions [5,6].

The objective of this session is twofold. First, we aim to discuss the potential and limitations of combining the telecoupling concept with environmental justice. Secondly, this session seeks to assemble empirical contributions that identify the mechanisms that lead to environmental (in)justices across distances, as well as leverage points for transformative connections in telecoupled systems.

To advance this agenda, we particularly welcome empirical and theoretical contributions that help to address the following key questions:

1. System boundaries, politics of scale and subjects of justice: by challenging fixed spatial scales, telecoupling opens up spatial criteria that define subjects of justice. How do social and ecological boundaries of telecoupled systems look like? How does this choice affect potential justice claims and responsibilities?

2. Agency, justice, and transformation: in telecoupled systems, decision-making arenas are often polycentric and spread across distances [5], but also highly asymmetrical and potentially hegemonic in terms of power. What are the agencies and leverage points for transformative connections towards more just telecoupled systems?

3. Social-ecological benefits and burdens across distances: ecosystem assessments usually overlook distant, diffuse and delayed impacts of ecosystem change [7]. Can the telecoupling framework inform better on these impacts and their outcomes in terms of justice? What is the transformative potential of making these impacts visible?

4. Environmental justice movements and distant interactions: distant sources of environmental impacts makes them difficult to identify and to fight by environmental justice movements. What are these movements’ strategies to overcome this challenge? Are movements able to connect with relevant distant actors more successful?


If you are interested in contributing a paper to this session, please send your abstract to Sebastien Boillat: by 12 February 2019. NOTE: Deadline has been extended! Please contact Sebastien Boillat for the new date.


1. Gasparri, N. I.; de Waroux, Y. le P. The Coupling of South American Soybean and Cattle Production Frontiers: New Challenges for Conservation Policy and Land Change Science. Conserv. Lett. 2015, 8, 290–298, doi:10.1111/conl.12121.

2. Liu, J.; Hull, V.; Batistella, M.; DeFries, R.; Dietz, T.; Fu, F.; Hertel, T. W.; Izaurralde, R. C.; Lambin, E. F.; Li, S.; Martinelli, L. A.; McConnell, W. J.; Moran, E. F.; Naylor, R.; Ouyang, Z.; Polenske, K. R.; Reenberg, A.; de Miranda Rocha, G.; Simmons, C. S.; Verburg, P. H.; Vitousek, P. M.; Zhang, F.; Zhu, C. Framing Sustainability in a Telecoupled World. Ecol. Soc. 2013, 18, doi:10.5751/ES-05873-180226.

3. Lenschow, A.; Newig, J.; Challies, E. Globalization’s limits to the environmental state? Integrating telecoupling into global environmental governance. Env. Polit. 2016, 25, 136–159, doi:10.1080/09644016.2015.1074384.

4. Eakin, H.; Rueda, X.; Mahanti, A. Transforming governance in telecoupled food systems. Ecol. Soc. 2017, 22, doi:10.5751/ES-09831-220432.

5. Oberlack, C.; Boillat, S.; Brönnimann, S.; Gerber, J.-D.; Heinimann, A.; Ifejika Speranza, C.; Messerli, P.; Rist, S.; Wiesmann, U. Polycentric governance in telecoupled resource systems. Ecol. Soc. 2018, 23, doi:10.5751/ES-09902-230116.

6. Boillat, S.; Gerber, J.-D.; Oberlack, C.; Zaehringer, J. G.; Ifejika Speranza, C.; Rist, S. Distant interactions, power and environmental justice in protected area governance: a telecoupling perspective. Sustainability.

7. Pascual, U.; Palomo, I.; Adams, W. M.; Chan, K. M. A.; Daw, T. M.; Garmendia, E.; Gómez-Baggethun, E.; de Groot, R. S.; Mace, G. M.; Martín-López, B.; Phelps, J. Off-stage ecosystem service burdens: A blind spot for global sustainability. Environ. Res. Lett. 2017, 12, 75001.