The Earth Justice and Stewardship Chair is a paired initiative with the Claude Leon Chair in Water Research, and the two chairs share a water research programme. Both Chairs are linked to honorary appointments at the University of Edinburgh. The Chair includes generous support for higher-degree and postdoctoral students.
The work of the Chairs is contextualized by two existential crises: The climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis. Together, these crises threaten all life on Earth. Responding to climate change and biodiversity loss will required urgent and sustained adaptation across all human systems.
But in every crisis there is opportunity. The current ecological crisis intersects with profound injustices: Gender, racial and species injustices which are interwoven, in complex ways, with the injustice the African continent has suffered as a result of centuries of colonialism and unjust exploitation. As humanity learns to adapt to the overlapping transitions currently underway, there is hope for more equitable and just systems to ensure that our natural endowment is handed to future generations in as good, or a better, condition.
The current incumbent of the Claude Leon Chair in Earth Justice and Stewardship is Professor Tracy-Lynn Field.
Sustainability, environmental justice, just transition, the circular economy – these are just some of the conceptual frames decision-makers across all walks of life are using to advocate for socio-economic and technical change. The programme of the Chair in Earth Justice and Stewardship uses these frames, but under the overarching banner of stewardship and sovereignty.
South Africa’s scarce water resources and water infrastructure will only be protected for present and future generations if there are systems for securing the needs of nature and basic human rights, and systems for fair, equitable and accountable allocation of water available for use.
Africa has abundant energy sources but the majority of Africans live in energy poverty. The Chair’s projects in the energy portfolio are enlivened by the vision of access to energy for all in Africa. Projects in this portfolio are centred on studying the future development of the oil, gas and renewable energy sectors in Africa, and the use of Africa’s resources for the just energy transition in the global North.
Africans have an opportunity to follow nature-supporting rather than nature-eroding developmental pathways. This will also entail tackling the systems that have allowed for the immoral and inequitable dispossession of Africa’s resources even as the continent has amassed enormous debt.