Diversity, equity & inclusion

The Society of the Protection of the Underground Networks (SPUN) is committed to the principle of inclusive action, appreciation, and promotion of diversity and zero tolerance of any form of discrimination.

The Society of the Protection of the Underground Networks (SPUN) is committed to the principle of inclusive action, appreciation, and promotion of diversity and zero tolerance of any form of discrimination.

We value and encourage diversity as one of the most precious features of human beings and we have the certainty that good science can only be achieved through the inclusion of diversity and equity into the entire process of knowledge production and dissemination. Particularly, we are committed to finding ways to support underrepresented groups and minorities facing structural inequalities across the globe.

As part of our mission, SPUN aims to protect and collaborate with the mycorrhizal networks that regulate the Earth’s climate and ecosystems. However, we acknowledge that many well-intentioned environmental initiatives end up perpetuating power dynamics, as a result of questions and answers being decided far away from the people impacted by these issues. Therefore, we seek to ensure that our team and network of collaborators reflect the diversity of those most impacted by the problems we are working on.

Environmental and climate justice can only be achieved if power imbalances are also tackled, especially acknowledging that the people and nations that have contributed the least to the current environmental crises are most vulnerable to them. Women, indigenous peoples, and black and ethnic groups from the Global South continue to be disproportionally affected by the environmental crisis.

As such, SPUN is committed to working toward challenging these rooted power relations and the coloniality of knowledge and to help build bridges that allow local and indigenous communities to have their fair share of power, resources, and opportunities to tackle climate change in a decolonized way.

Therefore, the Underground Explorers Program encourages applications from the Global South, women, and black and ethnic minorities. The program promotes inclusive research practices that consider the local and scientific communities and organizations in the places where data is being collected and where knowledge is produced. We are also committed to democratising scientific discoveries and scientific expertise, and making rigorous science open and easy to understand for diverse audiences.

Acknowledging power relations means considering that Western science leads ways of producing and circulating knowledge worldwide, which have been rooted in colonial practices and ideas. In this regard, our team and explorers have a crucial role to challenge these ways and building non-sexist, non-racial, and decolonial science. Consequently, we adhere to a series of principles to support these aims:

  1. Advocate to expand the inclusion of diversity in our team and networks
  2. The need to identify and remove barriers to the inclusion of diversity and to make reasonable adjustments when necessary to support diversity and equity.
  3. Include local communities, institutions, and NGOs in our research practice from the design to the diffusion of the results
  4. The methodological approach should prioritize transdisciplinarity when possible
  5. To democratize science and ensure that it is communicated to diverse audiences
  6. To decolonize science by expanding our capacities to communicate our research and include other forms of knowledge (including different cosmologies and visions about humans and non-human beings and their relationship)

Ethical guidelines

Our ethical guidelines consider a diverse set of documents and social actors. We draw on ethical principles embedded in local environmental laws including the required permits for collecting and exporting samples and special permits for protected areas and ecosystems. We comply with international agreements and regulations such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Nagoya Protocol for Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS); and the Rights of Nature Law adopted in Bolivia and Ecuador and the Recognition and Protection of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories, and Customary Governance Systems statement by African custodian communities of sacred natural sites in Africa[1]. In tandem with the Declaration of the Indigenous Forum of Abya Yala (2013[2]), we respect and support the vision of the indigenous people and their relationship with Mother Earth:

“For the indigenous peoples, our lands, territories, and resources are fundamental elements that allow historical continuity and the fullness of life, spirituality, social, cultural, economic, political, and human development, linked to our worldview that consists of the deep relationship with Mother Earth.” (Declaration of the Indigenous Forum of Abya Yala, 2013)

We draw on the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 169 International Labour Organization (ILO) convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (1989).

Taking these documents as guidelines, the Underground Explorers Program is based on values of respect, collaboration, reciprocity, and complementarity as guides for practice and relationships. Equally, we understand that each context might be different, and these principles should orient our practices, but not constrain them, and that ultimately, they can be adapted to respect the core values and aims. The principles that guide the Program are:

Principle of dignity, respect, and zero-tolerance for discrimination

Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, race, nation of origin, or disability, among others. No one should suffer any disadvantage as a result of differences and SPUN has a zero-tolerance policy for any form of discrimination.

Principle of respect for non-human beings and Earth, and commitment to protect and foster the contributions from nature

SPUN is committed to working for the mycorrhizal network’s protection considering its key role to sustain biodiversity and Earth’s ecosystems. Therefore, research carried out should engage with principles of respect, harmony, and the collective good, and aim to protect and regenerate the Biosphere.

Principle of Self-Determination, Free & Informed and Prior Consent

Research must take into account the right to self-determination of indigenous and tribal peoples, and has to seek free, prior, and informed consent from the indigenous communities when research is carried out in indigenous lands and territories. Equally, it should also respect indigenous laws, traditions, and customs.

Principle of inclusivity and due credit in the scientific practice

All research should acknowledge the participation of the people involved and give due credit to their contributions. These should be agreed upon with each social actor considering their preference and showing respect and appreciation for local and indigenous knowledge and for local science.

  1. Available at: https://www.gaiafoundation.org/app/uploads/2017/10/CalltoAfricanCommission_summary_Eng.pdf
  2. Available in Spanish: https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/WCIP-dec-csa.pdf[↩](about:blank#fnref2)