The Environment of Justice

David Harvey

in Living with Nature

Published in print June 1999 | ISBN: 9780198295099
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599262 | DOI:
 The Environment of Justice

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Takes up the issues of social class raised by the environmental justice movement in the US. The discussion begins with the primary issue that has given rise to the movement, namely, the dumping of toxic wastes in poor communities or countries. The inhabitants affected are those least able to absorb the resultant dangers to health, and such dumping practices can be seen as both discriminatory and neo‐imperialist. The levels of protest engendered have resulted in US federal government measures to address the issues of environmental justice involved, and the dumping debate can be generalized to a wider and higher level of social justice. On this level, a debate on environmental ethics is unfolding; it is essentially unresolvable because there is no philosophical method of resolving disagreements between different viewpoints regarding the social relations, power imbalances, beliefs, and institutions that underlie the environmental problem. The current rhetoric of environmental justice is not adequate to the task of reconciling competing visions of the rights that it purports to extend. Inability to adjudicate between rival arguments of ‘not in my back yard’ thus produces the unsatisfactory stalemate ‘not in anybody's back yard’. If environmental justice is to be more than an assemblage of particularist postures, some form of embracing socialist plan of action has to be formulated.

Keywords: environmental ethics; environmental justice; social justice; toxic waste; United States

Chapter.  14504 words. 

Subjects: Environment

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