Ecological Democracy: looking back, looking forward

Co-presented with the Sydney Environment Institute

20 February, 2017

Efforts to reconcile theories and practices of democracy with environmental sustainability have long been central to environmental political thought. Innovative work in the 1980s and 1990s addressed issues of the representation of the nonhuman, the relationship between democracy and ecological ‘limits’, and the design of ‘green’ states.

Since this first wave of scholarship on ecological democracy, there have been numerous crucial developments that pose a range of challenges. On the environmental side, we have seen the acceleration of climate change, arguments for setting planetary boundaries around humanity’s environmental impacts, and widespread acknowledgement that the Earth has entered a new epoch: the Anthropocene. On the political side, we have had the growth of environmental and climate justice movements, the proliferation of institutions for global environmental governance, and the anti-environmental and post-truth era.

This panel of distinguished contributors to the ecological democracy debate will examine what theories of ecological democracy have offered, and, looking forward, how (or if) they might respond to the current set of ecological, and democratic, challenges.


  • Professor Karin Bäckstrand on ‘Ecological Democracy In The Anthropocene’.
    Karin Bäckstrand is a Professor in Environmental Social Science at the Department of Political Science at Stockholm University. Her primary research revolves around global environmental politics, the role of science in environmental decision-making, the politics of climate change and the democratic legitimacy of global governance.
  • Professor Robyn Eckersley on ‘Democracy And Ecology: Looking Back, Looking Forward’.
    Robyn Eckersley is a Professor in Political Science in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. She has published widely in the fields of environmental politics, political theory and international relations, with a special focus on the ethics and governance of climate change.
  • John Dryzek on ‘Ecology And The Crisis Of Democracy: Trees Versus Trump.’
    John Dryzek is Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Centenary Professor in the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. Working in both political theory and empirical social science, he is best known for his contributions in the areas of democratic theory and practice and environmental politics.

Panel Chair:

David Schlosberg, Professor of Environmental Politics in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute. Professor Schlosberg is known internationally for his work in environmental politics, environmental movements, and political theory – in particular the intersection of the three with his work on environmental justice.