Deliberative Democracy and the Environment

Deliberative Democracy and the Environment

Deliberative Democracy and the Environment

Deliberative Democracy and the Environment

Synopsis

Contemporary democracies are frequently criticized for failing to respond adequately to environmental problems and our political institutions are often charged with misrepresenting environmental values in decision-making processes. In this innovative volume, Graham Smith argues that the enhancement and institutionalisation of democratic deliberation will improve reflection on the wide range of environmental values that citizens hold. Drawing on theories of deliberative democracy, Smith argues that institutions need to be restructured in order to promote democratic dialogue and reflection on the plurality of environmental values. Deliberative Democracy and the Environment makes an important contribution to our understanding of the relationship between democratic and green political theory. Drawing on evidence from Europe and the United States, it systematically engages with questions of institutional design.

Excerpt

In the last few decades of the twentieth century, environmental problems became a higher priority for governments, citizens and other bodies. Liberal democracies now have dedicated environmental ministries and agencies and an imposing array of environmental policies; governments are party to a seemingly impressive range of environmental agreements and regimes at the international level; citizens are generally more sympathetic towards the campaigns of environmental organisations. These developments have emerged in response to the recognition of the importance of environmental values, and yet there continue to be high levels of conflict around issues such as the release of genetically modified organisms, road building, the destruction of rainforests and climate change.

Value conflict is at the heart of environmental politics. Decisions that affect the environment are typically multi-faceted: when reasoning about the non-human world, individuals and groups often find themselves pulled in contradictory directions, appealing to values that they find difficult to reconcile. The central question that this book attempts to answer is how political decision-making processes might be structured so that they are sensitive to this plurality of environmental (and other) values.

The environmental movement itself can be understood as being born out of value conflict, a conflict with interests in society that did not recognise or give sufficient attention to environmental values. Greens have challenged the values associated with the idea of progress based on ever-increasing levels of economic growth on the grounds that it represents a failure to consider the full range of values that we associate with the environment.

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