Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Moving at the Speed of Trust: Radical and Progressive Change through Climate Justice Movements in Aotearoa

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posted on 2021-11-04, 22:23 authored by Simons, Emma Yvonne

Human-induced climate change is already having an acute impact on many lives and livelihoods. This is expected to escalate, especially for “disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development” (Pachauri et al., 2014, p. 13). This thesis is situated within post- and critical development, enabling critique of mainstream development alongside the exploration of alternative, bottom-up forms of development, such as social movements. Following a social constructionist epistemology, it utilises qualitative methodologies (in-person and virtual in-depth interviews) to navigate the complex, fluid, and subjective field of climate justice. This research situates the emerging climate justice movements in Aotearoa as key to understanding how radical, progressive societal change is articulated in the contemporary era to mitigate and adapt to anthropogenic climate change. Several core themes emerge as part of the research, including how various actors (organisations, sub-movements, and individuals) relate to each other and the world around them. This research asks and addresses not only what climate justice is in Aotearoa and who is involved, but also which theories of change operate within these emerging social movements? The data in this research outlines that climate justice movements in Aotearoa are accessible, inclusive, relational, accountable and frontline community-led, the antithesis of the current dominant structures and systems of society. These movements build upon other rights and justice movements, notably: Indigenous justice, disability justice, intersectional feminism, workers’ rights, and intergenerational justice. The development and negotiation of a collective climate justice identity is shaped by several interconnected tensions: partisanship versus non-partisanship, internal conformity versus diversity, and ecosystem versus ‘egosystem’. These tensions can also impede connection and understanding, at times leading to substantial harm to individuals, communities, and climate justice more broadly. This thesis outlines multiple forces shaping the actualisation of justice in an Aotearoa experiencing climate change. Fundamentally, this thesis highlights that climate justice is an ongoing journey of relationships and negotiations that “move at the speed of trust”.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Overton, John; Appleton, Nayantara Sheoran