Stream 5: Reconciling ecological and social citizenship?

Denis Bouget and Philippe Pochet

Increasing fears about the instability of work and about the gradual retrenchment of the most developed social welfare states in Europe have emerged in a global context of distrust regarding the sustainability of our ecological environment. Ecological concerns embrace firstly the physical and social consequences of global warming: severe and permanent droughts and rising sea level are creating ecological migrations within and between continents.

Secondly, the destruction of natural resources engenders both wealth and poverty for different groups, but above all income inequalities.

Thirdly, different types of pollution caused by the increasing use of chemical products damage the quality of air, water and food, entailing an increase in premature deaths due to ill health.

Fourthly, all those negative environmental changes deeply affect biodiversity and threaten species extinction. These ecological changes are occurring at an increasingly rapid pace.

Over the past few decades, these changes have become a considerable societal concern and have given birth to a new type of citizenship: ecological citizenship. However, until recently, these ecological concerns are rarely mentioned in social reforms (for example, the European Pillar of Social Rights), in spite of two parallel evolutions: the commodification and accelerated destruction of nature on the one hand, and the re-commodification and weakening of national social welfare systems in Europe on the other. To put it briefly, social citizenship seems to remain separate from ecological citizenship.

The purpose of this stream is therefore to explore the interplay, tensions or convergence between environment policies and employment or social policies in Europe. A first area of research focuses on reciprocal impacts between changes in the ecological environment and work (jobs, decent work, new skills, working time, wages, working conditions, etc.).

The second area focuses on socio-economic inequalities: are the current environmental policies increasing inequality or equality?

The third area focuses on social protection and social rights, and the transfer of damages to and protection of future generations. How are social policies dealing with demographic transitions and migration flows? How are they offering protection from the degradation of health? How are they fighting against poverty caused by ecological disasters?

Finally, the fourth area, focuses on the inevitable doctrinal and paradigmatic changes which could deliver an eco-social citizenship. The big question here is: are climate and social justice principles compatible?