Environmental Justice and the New Pluralism: The Challenge of Difference for Environmentalism

Environmental Justice and the New Pluralism: The Challenge of Difference for Environmentalism

Environmental Justice and the New Pluralism: The Challenge of Difference for Environmentalism

Environmental Justice and the New Pluralism: The Challenge of Difference for Environmentalism

Synopsis

In the first ever theoretical treatment of the environmental justice movement, David Schlosberg demonstrates the development of a new form of `critical' pluralism, in both theory and practice. Taking into account the evolution of environmentalism and pluralism over the course of the century, the author argues that the environmental justice movement and new pluralist theories now represent a considerable challenge to both conventional pluralist thought and the practices of the major groups in the US environmental movement. Much of recent political theory has been aimed at how to acknowledge and recognize, rather than deny, the diversity inherent in contemporary life. In practice, the myriad ways people define and experience the `environment' has given credence to a form of environmentalism that takes difference seriously. The environmental justice movement, with its base in diversity, its networked structure, and its communicative practices and demands, exemplifies the attempt to design political practices beyond those one would expect from a standard interest group in the conventional pluralist model.

Excerpt

This project began in Oregon, overlooking the majestic mountains of the Cascade Range. It concludes during a snowstorm in the shadows of the San Francisco Peaks of Northern Arizona. In each place, and at each time, I could describe the beauty of the natural environment I was lucky enough to be surrounded by. But the environment in both of those idyllic settings was more than the natural beauty; in both places, environmental injustices abound. During the work in Oregon, a monstrous semiconductor manufacturing plant rose out of what was once wetlands in my community, destroying creeks and wetlands, spilling toxic acids, soaking up tax breaks, and threatening nearby schools and neighborhoods. And now, environmental groups, community groups, and Native American tribes are working in coalition against plans to bury low-level radioactive waste at a sacred site in the nearby California Desert, as well as against plans to ship nuclear waste through my present community, on their way to storage near other Native American nations.

Through both my studies and my personal experience, I have been exposed to numerous understandings of the concept of 'environment', as well as a variety of forms of resistance. The challenge for all of this difference in environmental movements, of course, is in developing political ethics, practices, and demands that are both encompassing and just. That challenge was the motivation for this project, and what I explore here are notions--in both the realms of theory and practice--that have evolved in response.

I owe a great deal of thanks to a great number of people for their help on various parts, in numerous stages, of this project. My greatest single debt is owed to John Dryzek, who introduced me to the concept of discursive democracy which has, in turn, led to the whole range of questions inherent in pluralist discourse and practice. John's comments on the text, and on many of the theories and theorists I address, were always succinct and insightful. Discussions with him were invariably fruitful, especially those laced with his trademark wry humor fed by award-winning homebrew. At Oregon, Deborah Baumgold, Irene Diamond, Dan Goldrich, and Greg McLauchlan . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.