Defining Environmental Justice: Theories, Movements, and Nature

Defining Environmental Justice: Theories, Movements, and Nature

Defining Environmental Justice: Theories, Movements, and Nature

Defining Environmental Justice: Theories, Movements, and Nature

Synopsis

The basic task of this book is to explore what, exactly, is meant by 'justice' in definitions of environmental and ecological justice. It examines how the term is used in both self-described environmental justice movements and in theories of environmental and ecological justice. The central argument is that a theory and practice of environmental justice necessarily includes distributive conceptions of justice, but must also embrace notions of justice based in recognition, capabilities, and participation. Throughout, the goal is the development of a broad, multi-faceted, yet integrated notion of justice that can be applied to both relations regarding environmental risks in human populations and relations between human communities and non-human nature.

Excerpt

'How can you write a book on environmental justice without defining what you mean by justice?' That was the question, asked after I finished my first book on the US environmental justice movement, which turned into a challenge that has had me thinking and writing about this topic for the past seven years. Initially, my response was that it was easy to write such a book. My focus in that first work was on the innovative political structure and demands of the environmental justice movement, not about justice per se; additionally, I did not see it as proper to offer my own definition—that should come from the movement itself. But, of course, how one defines the 'justice' of environmental justice was an important question, and one that just would not leave me alone. And as I started to examine the issues in depth, the question of defining environmental justice brought me to related questions. How do movements for environmental justice define the concept of justice? Do different groups define the concept in varied ways? Have movement groups articulated notions of justice that go beyond traditional distributive conceptions, as many political theorists have in the past two decades? Is there a major difference between the definition of environmental justice (justice on environmental issues among the human population), and ecological justice (justice between humans and the rest of the natural world)? Can we have multiple notions of justice in various groups connected to the same movement? Can the language used in environmental justice movements also be applied to conceptions of ecological justice? And how can justice not only be conceived, but also implemented?

So, one good question led to many more, and my hope is that, with this work, I have begun to provide a few answers. In some ways the goals are simple. One of my tasks was to explore how movements that organize around environmental justice define the term themselves. In what follows, I argue that movements do not have a single definition of justice; in fact, they articulate many, just as justice theorists have been doing.

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