Justice and the Environment: Conceptions of Environmental Sustainability and Theories of Distributive Justice

By Andrew Dobson | Go to book overview

Introduction

THERE are limits to sustainability. About five billion years from now a series of unusually large explosions inside the sun will turn it into a Red Giant, expanding and swallowing everything in its path, including the Earth. It is a fair bet that some time before then, life on this planet will have become untenable, and any possibility of--let alone interest in--environmental sustainability and social justice will have long since disappeared. It is an equally fair bet, though, that until then, the conditions for life and how most fairly to divide up its benefits and burdens will be somewhere near the top of the list of political, social, and economic preoccupations. My intention here is to assess the theoretical relationship between environmental sustainability and social justice. The principal reason for doing so is that we cannot assume that these objectives are compatible, and their potential incompatibility raises issues of political legitimacy for them both. If they were always and everywhere compatible, then 'crises of legitimization' would never occur, but I hope to show in what follows that the empirical evidence for compatibility is patchy at best, and that there are good theoretical reasons for regarding extravagant compatibility claims with some scepticism. (I should say that here I assume, rather than argue for, the desirability of these two objectives, however it is that we turn out to understand them.)

Put differently, it is just possible that a society would be prepared to sanction the buying of environmental sustainability at the cost of declining social justice, as it is also possible that it would be prepared to sanction increasing social justice at the cost of a deteriorating environment. My guess, though, is that neither environmental sustainability nor social justice has such overriding legitimacy that

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Justice and the Environment: Conceptions of Environmental Sustainability and Theories of Distributive Justice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii
  • Contents xi
  • PART I 1
  • Introduction 3
  • 1- Environmental Politics And Distributive Justice 12
  • PART II 31
  • 2- Three Conceptions Of Environmental Sustainability 33
  • 3- The Dimensions of Social Justice 62
  • PART III 85
  • 4- 'Critical Natural Capital' And Social Justice (part L) 87
  • 5- 'Critical Natural Capital' And Social Justice (part Ii) 132
  • 6- 'Irreversibility' and Social Justice 165
  • 7- 'Natural Value' and Social Justice 216
  • Conclusion 240
  • References 263
  • Index 275
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