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Anthony Bebbington, Ford Foundation international program director, will give the 2021 John R. Mather Visiting Scholars Lecture on “Resource Governance and Climate After COVID: Social Justice Challenges.” The lecture will take place at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 2 in Clayton Hall.

Climate and social justice

Photo illustration by Tammy Beeson | Amazon deforestation image courtesy of Matt Zimmerman, Flickr, CC By 2.0

Ford Foundation’s Anthony Bebbington to give the 2021 John R. Mather Visiting Scholars Lecture

The inequities that have persisted during the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways future environmental transitions after COVID could further social injustices will be the main themes covered during the University of Delaware’s 2021 John R. Mather Visiting Scholars Lecture.

The lecture, “Resource Governance and Climate After COVID: Social Justice Challenges,” will take place at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 2 in Clayton Hall, and will be given by Ford Foundation International Program Director Anthony Bebbington.

Registration for the lecture is required, and people can view the lecture in person or virtually. Those attending in person will be able to join a reception in Clayton Hall immediately following the talk. To register, visit the 2021 Mather Lecture event page.

Bebbington serves as the international program director for natural resources and climate change at the Ford Foundation, a private foundation geared toward advancing human welfare. He is also the Higgins Professor of Environment and Society and the Director of the Graduate School of Geography at Clark University, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Association of Arts and Sciences.

His lecture will draw from experiences over the last year and a half, focusing on what he and the Ford Foundation — which has 11 offices all over the world — have learned from their grantee organizations, which are a mix of community-based and non-governmental organizations.

During the COVID period, in several regions across the world, there has been increased pressure on natural resources. For instance, Bebbington pointed towards Brazil, an area that has seen illegal land grabbers come in, squat on land — often land in the Amazon rainforest — and convert that land into a commodity that they can then sell or use themselves, displacing communities and accentuating forest loss.

Agricultural enterprises in Brazil are also burning land to convert it into agricultural land, and a good amount of the time, they do not own the land that they are burning. 

“There is evidence to suggest that these sorts of pressures have intensified during the COVID period,” said Bebbington. “Not so much because of COVID but because of interests taking advantage of the context of COVID to pursue access to resources. That has been coupled with problems of human rights abuses, shrinking civic space, and a whole slew of social justice problems that were already present.” 

There is also concern that strategies of economic recovery after COVID, including more investment in renewable energy and the mineral extraction that it will require, will bring additional pressures. While the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy will have positive environmental impacts, it also comes with a set of its own challenges. 

“It’s not that these problems are brand new, but in some sense, these energy transitions are themselves going to put pressure on people’s lands and territories,” said Bebbington. “One aspect of those transitions is that they are mineral intensive and they’re relatively space intensive. I would hope that people come away from this lecture reflecting to themselves on the many faces of energy transition and the very real potential that the energy transition has for visiting further social injustices on populations and communities that have endured their fair share of them in the past.” 

About the Mather Lecture

The John R. Mather Visiting Scholars Lecture is hosted by the Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences, which is housed in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, and is being co-sponsored this year by the University’s new Gerard J. Mangone Climate Change Science and Policy Hub.

The Mather Lecture honors the memory of John (Russ) Mather, who served as a professor of geography at UD from 1963 through 2003 and as chair of the Department of Geography from 1966 through 1989.

Sandra F. Mather established the lectureship to honor her late husband by enabling the department to host well-known scholars for the active exchange of ideas related to Mather's broad interests in climatology and geography.

Gerard J. Mangone Climate Change Science and Policy Hub

Serving as the central resource at the University of Delaware and the region for anyone concerned with climate change and its impacts, the Gerard J. Mangone Climate Change Science and Policy Hub unites scholars and engages policymakers and community leaders. The Hub spearheads and supports projects in education, research, innovation, and community solutions by approaching climate change challenges from multiple disciplines so that together we can discover and implement practical solutions for a more sustainable tomorrow.

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