'Natural Value' and Social Justice
THE defining feature of this final conception of environmental sustainability is its focus on the sustaining of 'natural value'. It will be remembered that from Alan Holland, for example, the value of nature to which he refers derives from the history of natural objects, so what is important from the point of view of sustainability is 'maintaining enough of the particular historical forms of association and their historically particular components--all the better if they have the mark of nature upon them' ( Holland 1994: 178).
The ascription of value to nature need not necessarily be based on its possession of a particular history, although as I pointed out in Chapter 2 Robert Goodin ( 1992) has made an important contribution to our analysis of green political theory from this point of view. It may also, for example, derive from the belief that value inheres in those parts of the human and non-human natural world 'that display the property of autopoiesis, which means "self-production" or "self-renewal"' ( Eckersley 1992: 60). But the point for us here is that the 'natural value' conception of environmental sustainability is distinguished from the 'irreversibility' conception in two ways. First, the former entertains a wider frame of reference for what is to be maintained and/or sustained than the latter: the set called 'natural value' is larger than the set called 'irreversible nature': the latter may be coterminous with the former (think of a species, for example), but where it is not, we see that the latter 'nests' in the former.
Second, in the 'natural value' conception the language of substitutability is wholly eschewed, and in this way one dimension of the 'irreversibility' conception is taken as far as it will go. Substitutability is a defensible feature of the 'irreversibility' conception in so