Social Justice: Theories, Issues, and Movements

By Loretta Capeheart; Dragan Milovanovic | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7

Environmental and
Ecological Justice

ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECOLOGICAL CONCERNS are separate yet closely related justice themes. Low and Gleeson (1998, 2) describe these related themes as “two aspects of the same relationship” and suggest that these aspects are “the justice of the distribution of environments among peoples, and the justice of the relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world.” Taylor (2000, 42) has even envisioned an “environmental justice paradigm” that would “link environment and race, class, gender and social justice concerns.” Some have been even more explicit about making the connections. Middleton and O'Keefe (2001, 16, 100), for example, argue that we must deal not only with symptoms (uneven impact of environmental hazards), but also with the causes—that is, with social injustice (see Agyeman, Bullard, and Evans 2003; Haughton 1999). Because the relationship between people and the natural world is defined and affected by the distribution of environments among them, and the distribution of environments between people is defined and affected by the relationship between people and the planet, this is in fact the same relationship. In this chapter we will accept this description and, except where explicitly separated, refer to environmental/ecological justice as the same justice relationship.

In order to understand the complexities of the idea of environmental/ ecological justices, it is important to take a look at a selection of the literature that continues to inform debates around our understandings. Halsey (2004) offers an instructive critique of the criminological discourse concerning environmental and ecological justice. The general oversight of this area of study by criminologists is among his concerns; however, he attends mainly to the conceptualization of environmental justice within criminology. Of particular concern to Halsey is the binary nature of much of the debate, which places two opposing forces at odds with each other without consideration for other more complex sets of interests. For example, much of the literature contrasts the interest of capitalism and humanity or capitalism and nature. While this

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