Artistic Research: Photo installations by Hamburg photographer Barbara Dombrowski with texts by Kiel geographer Silja Klepp

Artistic Research: Photo installations by Hamburg photographer Barbara Dombrowski with texts by Kiel geographer Silja Klepp

In summer 2018 the photographer Barbara Dombrowski traveled to the South Pacific islands of Kiribati and Rarotonga. The journey was both the conclusion of her photographic cycle "Tropic Ice_Dialog between Places Affected by Climate Change" and the starting point for a cycle of spectacular installations designed to draw attention to climate change and its consequences for culture and native people on five continents.

The images of the Kiribati archipelago are closely linked to the research of Silja Klepp, a geographer from Kiel. The Professor of Social Dynamics in Coastal and Marine Regions at Kiel University has spent several long research stays there, where she focused on the social and cultural consequences of climate change and examines questions of climate migration and adaptation.

The exhibition shows an excerpt from the documentation of Barbara Dombrowski's journey and Silja Klepp's personal contacts and places of research. The exhibition documents how the people on the South Pacific islands are affected by climate change, what adaptation measures they have taken and what strategies they are pursuing to avoid migration and to become refugees. In addition to the photo installations, Silja Klepp's texts illustrate the challenges facing the population living with climate change, the consequences of which, such as rising sea levels, they have contributed least to.

The exhibition "Climate Justice in Kiribati" is part of the interdisciplinary workshop "Narratives and practices of environmental justice" at Kiel University, which brings together about 60 international scientists to discuss fundamental questions of environmental justice from different scientific perspectives. The workshop is organized by Silja Klepp, Florian Dünckmann and Jonas Hein from the Institute of Geography.

At the same time, the event will be the starting signal for the new "Enjust Network for Environmental Justice" at Kiel University, which will form an interface between science, politics and society in the future. Furthermore, researchers from the Institute of Geography, scientists from the Department of Philosophy, the Department of Environmental Ethics, the Department of Law, the Department of Sinology, and the Department of Political and Social Sciences will contribute to the project and form a broad interdisciplinary research environment for the topic area. The exhibition is intended to contribute to bringing different people into dialogue with each other in order to exchange views on questions of climate justice.

Climate Justice in Kiribati, Oceania

The Republic of Kiribati is an island state in the central Pacific made up of 32 atolls, with a population of around 110,000. Inequalities on different levels in the context of global climate change are adversely affecting developing countries such as the Republic of Kiribati. Kiribati’s inhabitants bear little responsibility for anthropogenic climate change, as their per capita emissions are low; nevertheless, they are heavily impacted by actual and expected environmental changes. The potential for conflict present within climate justice debates is especially apparent in discourses on the connections between climate change and mobility. Countries like Kiribati are often perceived to be the first victims of climate change and have to anticipate the future uninhabitability of their territory. Such countries claim global and regional solidarity to assist them in their search for mitigation efforts, adaptation financing and adequate long-term solutions for potential climate migrants.

Some environmental changes are already occurring, such as stronger and more frequent storm tides, coastal erosion, and the salinization of fresh water sources and agricultural land. Although the predicted sea-level rise has to take into account global, regional and local variables that make these predictions difficult, Pacific island states such as the Republic of Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands are identified as being especially vulnerable. Some of these islands are less than one metre above sea level and have densely populated coastal areas. Sea level is expected to rise by 124 cm by the year 2100, and some researchers even predict a rise of 200 cm. Environmental changes could make the islands uninhabitable in the long run and threaten the sovereignty of some atoll states. The timing and predictions regarding the exact impacts remain uncertain.

Along with profound socio-economic problems and few opportunities for financing adaptation measures, Kiribati suffers from additional structural inequalities on various levels. These include for example, the impacts of colonization, including unsustainable phosphor exploitation, which displaced people in the 1940s as well as limited access to resources and social services. The participation and arrangement opportunities in international as well as regional political negotiations are also restricted.

On the global and regional level, the government of Kiribati is part of the large transnational movement for climate justice, which focuses on human rights and the cultural and environmental rights of indigenous peoples and minorities. The activities of this movement are often initiated by NGOs. For example, the network Climate Justice Now! was created in the frame of the UNFCCC negotiations in 2007 in Bali by more than 30 NGOs and grassroots organizations. The Peoples Agreement, created at the People’s congress 2010 in Bolivia, demands far reaching rights of self-determination such as access to water, land rights and food production “through forms of production that are in harmony with Mother Earth and appropriate to local cultural ontexts”.

Inspired by similar thoughts and taking the post-colonial setting of Oceania into account, a growing number of voices in the Pacific area, in the context of the debates around climate justice, are calling for a new, transnational solidarity and unity to reduce the effects of climate change.

The dynamic discussions on climate justice show that the negotiation process in Kiribati and Oceania concerns itself with concrete, local, social and connective questions around climate justice. It includes decidedly migration-‘friendly’ perspectives and some actors are promoting a postcolonial questioning of national borders. In particular, climate justice must be linked to important post-colonial arguments concerning the political nature of the crisis faced by islands such as Kiribati. This applies to the debates and research around climate change and migration as well as to discussions and studies of adaptation to anthropogenic climate change. It must underline the call for mitigation efforts of industrialized countries and their support in financing climate change adaptation.

Based on texts written by Silja Klepp (Kiel University).

Mangrove planting as coastal protection and adaptation to climate change – a community
activity in Ambo, Kiribati

The women that plant mangroves in the Lagoon of South Tarawa, in the village of Ambo, are part of the Kiribati Climate Action Network (KiriCan). They are volunteers. After a long season of planting the saplings in the lagoon, of which only a part will root, the women are having a community party in the Maneba (community house) of Ambo.

Mangrove planting is an anticipatory adaptation action and a so-called soft coastal protection measure. It is undertaken to buffer coastal environments to reduce the vulnerability of coastal communities from the effects of climate change, including more severe storms and sea-level rise. Compared to hard protection measures, like sea walls, it is often more sustainable and provides employment to the communities. Today mangrovs are threatened by anthropogenic climate change and other human activities. Current and future changes in sea-level, storminess, rain, temperature, atmospheric CO2 concentration, ocean circulation patterns can all mean danger to mangroves. To date, climate change has likely been a smaller threat to mangroves compared to clearing for aquaculture, coastal development and pollution of coastal waters. Based on available evidence, of all the climate change outcomes, sea-level rise may be the greatest threat in the future.

Healthy mangrove forests not only mean coastal protection, but a great benefit also comes from the resources provided by mangrove forests. Mangroves perform valuable regional and site-specific functions. Mangrove loss will reduce coastal water quality, reduce biodiversity, eliminate fish and crustacean nursery habitat, adversely affect adjacent coastal habitat, and eliminate a major resource for human communities that rely on mangroves for numerous products and services. Reduced mangrove coverage and health will increase the threat to human safety and shoreline development from coastal hazards such as erosion, flooding, storm waves and surges, and tsunami, as some scientists have observed following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Mangrove ecosystems were able to persist through the quaternary despite substantial disruptions from large sea-level fluctuations, demonstrating that mangroves are highly resilient to change over historic time scales. However, over the coming decades, mangrove vulnerability and responses to climate change will be highly influenced by anthropogenic disturbances. Mangrove cover on Pacific Islands have been reduced substantially in recent years. Adaptation measures like mangrove planting can offset anticipated mangrove losses and improve resistance and resilience to climate change. Coastal planning can adapt to facilitate mangrove migration with sea-level rise. With the replanting of mangroves and trees, it is hoped that South Tarawa, the capital and urban aggregation of Kiribati, will be protected from sea level rise, and king tides, as well as acting as future sources of fuelwood and building construction materials and fish breeding grounds.

Based on texts written by Eric L. Gilman (IUCN, Global Marine Programme, Honolulu, USA) and Alia Levine and Bonnie Flaws (Dev-Zone, Wellington, New Zealand).

Climate change adaptation gone wrong – The case of sea walls in Kiribati

Islands are recognized as uniquely exposed to climate change, now and in the future. Anthropogenic climate change challenges for island inhabitants include issues of water security, salinization of groundwater, stronger tropical-cyclone impacts and shoreline erosion and coastal flooding due to sea-level rise. Kiribati consists of 32 coral atolls and reef islands, as well as the raised limestone island Banaba. Current studies suggest that two thirds of the land are less than 2 m above mean sea level and maximum elevations are roughly 3 m. Adding to the risks for island communities created by anthropogenic climate change are a multitude of socio-economic vulnerabilities in Small Island Development States, such as Kiribati. These vulnerabilities are linked to the (post)-colonial structures and dependencies that persist, in various forms, until today. Among other factors, colonialism and globalization processes brought a change in lifestyles and a loss of local ecological knowledge and adaptation possibilities “Island Style”.

Coastal protection measures can be well suited to immediately protect coastal assets from inundation and protect from land loss during high water events. They can be divided into three categories: ‘hard’ protection measures, ‘soft’ measures, and retreat or migration. Hard measures include land reclamation and physical barriers like sea walls. Sea walls in Kiribati are normally built from coral rock, sand bags and concrete blocks. They represent most of the engineered coastal structures in South Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati. Most solutions for climate-change adaptation in Kiribati have been short-term, reflecting a dependence on project based and limited assistance from donor countries and a preference by consultants, engineers and many I-Kiribati for visible, technical “solutions”. In Kiribati, there is rarely sufficient data to adequately inform the design and positioning of ‘protective’ structures.

Sea walls that are built in a wrong way, with cheap material and potentially in the wrong location can have disastrous consequences, invariably marked by the degradation of structures like sea walls and irreversible negative impacts. These impacts range from beach narrowing and beach loss to nearshore ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, which might also threaten food security for coastal inhabitants. Expensive, hard measures require regular maintenance; which is rarely provided by international cooperation that pays for the structures. There are so many broken, aid-funded sea walls, roads, and water systems in South Tarawa that a report labeled the atoll a “graveyard of shortlived infrastructure investments”.

Research shows that traditional knowledge and coping capacity on islands is likely to help people better adapt to future climate change. In addition to localized knowledge, it is important for those on islands involved in environmental governance to be aware of their unique attributes and specific local and regional environmental contexts. And, maybe most important, is to replace the commonly one-way direction of adaptation measures with genuine interaction in which both external agents and target communities have at least equal say in the design and implementation of adaptation pathways.

Based on texts written by Simon Donner (Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada) and Patrick Nunn (University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia).

For further information visit

CfP: International workshop “Bridging research, policy and activism for environmental justice in times of crises”
International workshop on Environmental Justice Freiburg, Germany, 27 – 29 May 2020
Enjust Event
Netzwerk zur Umweltgerechtigkeit: Internationaler Workshop am Geographischen Institut Kiel
Bericht über das Netzwerktreffen in Kiel vom 6. bis zum 8. Juni
Enjust Event

Mehr als 60 Wissenschaftler*innen aus 14 Ländern trafen sich vom 6. bis zum 8. Juni an der Kieler Universität zum Workshop „Narratives and Practices of Environmental Justice“, um sich zu Themen und Fragen der Umweltgerechtigkeit miteinander auszutauschen. Ein kleiner und wohlhabender Teil der Weltbevölkerung beansprucht einen immer größeren Anteil der Ressourcen auf der Erde und verschmutzt und zerstört gleichzeitig wertvolle Lebensräume an Land und in den Weltmeeren. Betroffen sind oft diejenigen Gruppen, die am wenigsten für die Entwicklungen verantwortlich sind. Wie lässt sich ein gerechterer Umgang mit Umweltkrisen erreichen? Welche Dimensionen von Gerechtigkeit (z.B. Verteilung der Kosten und Nutzen, Anerkennung von Identitäten, Beteiligung an politischen Entscheidungen) werden davon berührt und welche unterschiedlichen Gerechtigkeitskonzepte (Gleichheit, Bedürfnisse, Verdienst etc.) stehen sich dabei gegenüber? Der Workshop brachte zum einen internationale Forscher*innen aus den Bereichen Geographie, Sozial-, Politik- und Rechtswissenschaften und Umweltethik zusammen. Darüber hinaus sollte aber auch der Austausch zwischen Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft gefördert werden, um die Thematik intensiver in die öffentliche Debatte zu bringen. Aus diesem Grund gehörten auch Künstler*innen und Aktivist*innen zu den Teilnehmenden. Nicht zuletzt diente der Workshop als Startschuss für das neue internationale Netzwerk zur Umweltgerechtigkeit (EnJust – Network for Environmental Justice), das am 8. Juni gegründet wurde und das zukünftig als Schnittstelle zwischen verschiedenen wissenschaftlichen Disziplinen, Politik und Zivilgesellschaft dienen soll. Nähere Informationen über das Netzwerk, das neue Mitglieder selbstverständlich immer willkommen heißt, gibt es unter, #enjust bzw. über die Email

Ausstellung „Klimagerechtigkeit in Kiribati“ mit Fotographien von Barbara Dombrowski

Eröffnet wurde der Workshop mit einer Keynote von Gordon Walker (Department of Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK), einem der führenden Geographen auf dem Feld der Umweltgerechtigkeit. Sein Vortrag mit dem Titel „Environmental justice in space and time: opening up temporalities“ beleuchtete v.a. die Zeitlichkeit von Gerechtigkeitsfragen. Während die verschiedenen räumliche Komponenten von Umweltgerechtigkeit bereits eingehend betrachtet wurden (z.B. räumliche Verteilung von Umweltkosten, Geographien der Verwundbarkeit bzw. der Verantwortung), blieben zeitliche Muster von Umweltkrisen bislang weitgehend unbeachtet. So lassen sich z.B. viele soziale Folgen von Umweltprobleme als eine Form von slow violence beschreiben, einer subtil und erst über lange Zeiträume wirksamen Form von gesellschaftlicher Gewalt, die nur schwer zu erkennen und noch schwerer nachzuweisen ist. Daneben müssen auch die Rhythmen des gesellschaftlichen Lebens stärker beachtet werden, um zu analysieren, in welcher Weise z. B. bestimmte Bevölkerungsgruppen allein durch ihre aktionsräumlichen Routinen in besonderem Maße bestimmten negativen Umweltfaktoren ausgesetzt sind (z. B. Feinstaubbelastung bei Pendlern). Mit seinem Plädoyer für eine stärkere Zeit-Sensibilität eröffnet Walker eine ganz neue Dimension bei der Analyse von Themen der Umweltgerechtigkeit.

Weitere Teilaspekte dieses weiten Feldes wurden dann in den folgenden zwei Tagen im Rahmen von sieben thematischen Panels bzw. 31 Vorträgen angesprochen. Der Weiterentwicklung der theoretischen Basis von Umweltgerechtigkeit widmete sich die Sitzung „Conceptualizing Environmental Justice“, bei der unterschiedliche Gerechtigkeitsprinzipien, wie Partizipation, Rawls‘ Ziel der Fairness, der Capabilities-Ansatz oder das Prinzip der Gleichheit, kritisch beleuchtet und hinsichtlich ihrer Eignung, als Grundlage von Gerechtigkeitsdiskursen zu dienen, beleuchtet wurden. Die Session zu „Social movements and counter narratives“ behandelte Beispiele von zivilgesellschaftliche Bewegungen aus verschiedenen Ländern (u. a. Argentinien, Mexiko, Deutschland, Maghreb-Staaten), die in jeweils unterschiedlicher Weise Umweltgerechtigkeit einfordern und sich dabei verschiedener Diskurselemente und Narrative bedienen. Das Panel zu „Justice dimensions of climate politics“ beschäftigte sich mit den gerechtigkeitstheoretischen Implikationen von Strategien zum Umgang mit dem Klimawandel. Sei es REDD+, Carbon Pricing, Natural Hazard Management oder Klimaanpassungsstrategien: Alle diese Ansätze haben weitreichende Folgen hinsichtlich der Verteilung von Kosten und Nutzen und anderer Gerechtigkeitsdimensionen. Die Sitzung zur „Marine Justice“ beleuchtete Umweltgerechtigkeit im maritimen Kontext. Fragen des internationalen Rechts, des grenzüberschreitenden Managements natürlicher Ressourcen oder der Interessen von Fischern stehen dabei immer in Beziehung zur Problematik der Allmende bzw. der Commons, die die sozialwissenschaftliche Diskussion um Umweltprobleme bereits seit langer Zeit prägt. Die Gesundheitswissenschaften, die in der Session zu „Public health and environmental justice“ im Mittelpunkt standen, beschäftigen sich bereits seit langem mit der Frage, inwieweit Umweltbelastungen ungleich bzw. ungerecht verteilt sind, und mit den verschiedenen Möglichkeiten, diese gesellschaftlichen Muster wissenschaftlich nachzuweisen und hinsichtlich ihrer Wirkungsweise zu analysieren. Im Panel zu „Justice dimensions of environmental politics“ wurden verschiedene Beispiele von umwelt- und naturschutzpolitischen Maßnahmen (Naturschutzgebiete, Zahlungen für ökologische Dienstleistungen, etc.)  im Hinblick auf ihre Implikation für eine gerechte Gesellschaft beleuchtet. Auf der Sitzung zu „Environmental conflict and transformation“ wurden Studien vorgestellt, die mithilfe sehr unterschiedlicher Methoden (Diskursanalyse, Q-Methode, partizipatives Theater etc.) zu einem besseren Verständnis der sozialen und kulturellen Dynamik von Umweltkonflikten beitragen wollen.

Aufgelockert wurde der Workshop durch Veranstaltungen, die auf einem aktiven Austausch von Ideen basierten. Neben einem World-Café, bei dem v.a. die gesellschaftliche Relevanz von Forschung zu Umweltgerechtigkeit diskutiert wurde, gab es eine hochkarätig besetzte Podiumsdiskussion, auf der Vertreter*innen aus Planung, Wissenschaft, Zivilgesellschaft, Recht und Parteipolitik miteinander debattierten. Teilnehmer*innen waren: Roda Verheyen, eine Hamburger Rechtsanwältin, die momentan mehrere Klima-Klagen vor deutschen Gerichten verfolgt, Jean Carlo Rodriguez de Fransisco vom Deutschen Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, Daniel Morchain, der lange Zeit bei Oxfam gearbeitet hat und der nun beim International Institute for Sustainable Development tätig ist, Gunnar Maus als Vertreter der Regionalplanung von Schleswig-Holstein und der Vorsitzende der Grünen in Schleswig-Holstein, Steffen Regis.

Panel Discussion

Parallel zu den Veranstaltungen fand im Foyer des Wissenschaftszentrums Kiel eine Ausstellung mit Fotos von Barbara Dombrowski statt, die sich in ihrer Arbeit mit der gelebten Wirklichkeit des Klimawandels beschäftigt. Mit ihren großformatigen Portraits und Alltagsszenen aus Kiribati, dem Staat in Ozeanien, dessen Inseln unmittelbar vom Meeresspiegelanstieg bedroht sind, gibt sie dem ansonsten abstrakten Phänomen des Klimawandels ein menschliches Antlitz, ohne dabei die Menschen als Opfer zu zeigen. Dieses Nebeneinander von wissenschaftlichem Diskurs, gesellschaftlicher Debatte und künstlerischer Herausforderung gab dem Workshop seinen besonderen Charakter. Es besteht die konkrete Hoffnung, dass dieser Workshop den Beginn einer intensiven und nachhaltigen Zusammenarbeit von nationalen und internationalen Wissenschaftler*innen und Aktivist*innen markiert, die sich mit Themen der Umweltgerechtigkeit auseinandersetzen. Bereits im nächsten Jahr soll der nächste Workshop des EnJust-Netzwerkes stattfinden; Hartmut Fünfgeld von der Universität Freiburg hat in Aussicht gestellt ihn zu organisieren.

Florian Dünckmann, Jonas Hein, Silja Klepp

Poster EnJust Workshop
Enjust Event
International workshop on “Narratives and practices of environmental justice” 6.-8. Juni 2019
International workshop on “Narratives and practices of environmental justice” 6.-8. Juni 2019 am Geographischen Institut an der Universität zu Kiel
Enjust Event

The aim of the EnJust Workshop is to promote the exchange between science, civil society and practitioners on questions of environmental justice. The workshop focuses on narratives and practices of environmental (in)justice with the objective to overcome  disciplinary, one-dimensional views on the environmental crisis. The meeting will take place from 06 - 08 June 2019 at the Wissenschaftszentrum of the University of Kiel. The program consists of five topics with a total of 35 presentations.

Public events:

Thursday, June 06th

14.00-15.30, Keynote

Prof. Dr. Gordon Walker (Lancaster) "Environmental justice in space and time: opening up temporalities"

Thursday, June 06th

19.00-open end, Vernissage

Photo Installations on Climate Justice in Oceania by Barbara Dombrowski (Hamburg)

Friday, June 07 th

19.00-21.00, Panel Discussion

"From Science to Action – Knowledge for a Just Transformation?" moderated by Florian Dünckmann (Institute of Geography, CAU Kiel):
Verheyen, Roda (Lawyer and climate activist, Hamburg)
Regis, Steffen (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel)
Morchain, Daniel (International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Winnipeg)
Maus, Gunnar (Regional Planning Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel)
Rodriguez de Francisco, Jean Carlo (German Development Institut, Bonn)

Interested visitors are mostly welcome to the three public events!

Bericht vom Berliner Senat
Johanna Barnbeck
Bericht zu #Umweltgerechtigkeit ist erschienen

Bericht zu #Umweltgerechtigkeit ist erschienen: Daten zu Umweltbelastungen sind erstmals nach Berliner Stadtquartieren aufgeschlsselt. Eine wertvolle Arbeitsgrundlage fr Senat und Bezirke, um gezielt gegen gehufte Umweltbelastungen vorzugehen.

CfP: Conference: Narratives and Practices of Environmental Justice
Silja Klepp Jonas Hein
Call for Papers EnJust Conference [Kurze Beschreibung des PDFs]
example pdf Soziale und politische Folgen des Klimawandels

The aim of this workshop, organized by the Institute of Geography at Kiel University, Kiel Marine Science (KMS) and the Enjust Network for Environmental Justice emerging at Kiel University, is to advance ongoing debates on environmental and climate justice by focusing on narratives and associated practices, and to foster networking among scholars. (Beispiel mit PDF-Anhang)