Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Justifying and Juxtaposing Environmental Justice and Sustainability: Towards an Inter-Generational and Intra-Generational Analysis of Environmental Equity in Public Administration

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Justifying and Juxtaposing Environmental Justice and Sustainability: Towards an Inter-Generational and Intra-Generational Analysis of Environmental Equity in Public Administration

Article excerpt

How should public administrators integrate environmental goals in the context of the siting and permitting of noxious land uses? Communities and public administrators within their limited spheres of power must routinely evaluate development within the urban context through a dynamic approach. In a very simplified but conceptually useful account of governing local development, public administrators and their communities must decide whether or not they should develop a particular plot of land, and then decide how this development should occur. In making this decision, they must determine the economic outcome and the environmental impact, and evaluate a range of equity claims and moral questions (Beatley, 1991). They must also consider the distributional effects of both the potential environmental costs and economic benefits from this given land use decision today and tomorrow. If we assume that there are environmental costs from the development such as pollution from a manufacturing use, then, these drawbacks must be balanced along with the economic benefits such as jobs for the population. We can also assume that some degree of pollution control is possible and that prevention technology will cost money and may limit the degree of economic growth (Ayres, 2008). Given this, public administrators and the communities that they represent face three choices. They can choose to avoid all environmental costs and not develop the land, to develop the land to the maximum degree possible without pollution control measures, or the community can seek to develop the land with environmental considerations in place through the institution of sustainability plans and policies. The community must consider how to develop the land based upon the bundle of environmental costs and economic benefits associated with this action. Simply put, they must define how many jobs are worth how many units of pollution at a potentially noxious land use.

With scenarios such as this playing out daily, what principles should guide economic growth and development within public administration practice and theory? At the end of the day, preservative environmental public management approaches may be a favorable end, but how can they be justified in a complex web of actors and political aims such as the need for job growth in an economic downturn? The integration of environmental goals has evolved over the years. In the United States, a lack of environmental concern around economic growth characterized much of the development trajectory since the Industrial Revolution. Although sustainability is not a wholly new concept and has been broadly discussed in public administration (Fiorino, 2010), environmental considerations and sustainability measures often went by the way side as a result of new mass production strategies utilized to meet the mass consumer demand of the era (Andrews, 1999). In contrast, today environmental considerations are arguably more frequently considered as one evaluative dimension in public management and policy decisions. Policymakers, penning municipal sustainability and regional climate actions plans, arguably increasingly embrace environmental goals through the conceptual frame of sustainability (Wheeler, 2000), and some scholars argue that sustainability may eventually come to define public administration as a whole (Fiorino, 2010). Although the extent to which public managers have discretion is limited (1), the new sustainability framework and the aggregate measures and plans that increasingly result, may represent a fundamental shift in how public administrators evaluate development.

More specifically, how can we understand the integration of environmental values within 21st century public administration? Traditional pillars of public administration have included the guiding values of efficiency and economy. Frederickson (2010) outlines the key purposes of public organizations in the management and delivery of public services. …

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