Considerable work is currently being undertaken internationally to apply the concept of restorative justice to the whole field of environmental crime and climate justice.

The European Forum for Restorative Justice has published proceedings from a seminar on this subject – available at

In the introduction to this booklet, John Braithwaite and his colleagues provide the following explanation:

We live in the Anthropocene, the era of history when humankind dominates nature, when human kindness to nature withers, especially as machine bureaucracies of production lines, commodified institutions and blitzkriegs of war machines displace organic organisations that flourished relationally through interconnections among and between human worlds and the worlds of the land and the sea.

Climate change, species loss, growing and urbanising populations, diffuse sources of pollution and predatory capitalism are all placing increased pressures on our natural and built environment, often leaving the most marginalised communities to bear the worst of the burden of environmental pollution.

Repairing harm

Restorative environmental justice is philosophically much more than a set of techniques for doing justice for the environment in a more relational and emotionally intelligent fashion, though it is that as well.

It is about repairing the harm of the Anthropocene. It is about healing earth systems and healing the relationship of humans with nature and with each other. Because the relationship of human domination developed during the Anthropocene, restorative environmental justice should also be about humbling humans’ domination of nature. It is about tempering human power over earth systems and domination of the powerful over the less powerful. It seeks to advance the imperative to harness collective human power to forge a new vision of humankind as bearing a harmonious, restorative relationship with nature and with each other. It is about a humanly articulated future that is healing and relational.

This must involve a transformative mobilisation of the restorative power and the restorative imagination of humankind. It involves the insight that, by being active citizens of the planet, by participating in the project of healing our natural world, we heal ourselves as humans who only have meaning and identity as part of that natural world.

Restorative environmental justice (or the term we prefer, environmental restorative justice) means, for example, a massive human-led reforestation of the planet and investment of human resources in seeding those renewed forests with species that have become endangered thanks to human domination. It means following the Chinese example of building ‘sponge cities’ that capture and clean every bit of run-off from the city’s paths, roads, buildings and gutters and returning some of that city water to river systems that need more water to survive. It means more circular systems of using water in agriculture that take less water from those same endangered river systems. It means more circular re-use of waste so it does not find its way into rivers. It means restorative human steering the circle of warming that links the sun to the earth — steering some of the sun’s heat to human projects of cooling the earth system.


Restorative environmental justice requires a human-led transformation of the shape of our economy, so we grow our well-being and continuously grow non-exploitative employment — not by increasing the consumption of goods, but by increasing the consumption of services. Increased consumption of health, education, care and disability services is structurally critical to shape-shifting.

The International Journal of Restorative Justice recently dedicated a full edition to this subject – see

SA application

South Africa is regarded as one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. The social, economic and development challenges the country faces, together with a criminal justice system under severe pressure, makes conservation work difficult. Promoting a restorative approach in this context provides a fresh approach and additional opportunities. The RJC is committed to this task, particularly in its project with the Endangered Wildlife Trust