Analyse & Kritik

Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory

Environmental Justice: Empirical Concerns and Normative Reasoning

2014 (36) Issue 2
Guest-Editor: Gordon Walker


In Why Things Matter to People Andrew Sayer reminds us that we are evaluative beings in which normative questions strongly figure in our everyday lives “because while we are capable and can flourish we are also vulnerable and susceptible to various kinds of loss or harm“ (Sayer 2011, 1). The ’environment’, understood in broad terms, provides one arena or frame within which evaluative questions necessarily figure, because of its centrality to our individual and collective flourishing or s...

More →

Table of Contents

Title: Ghettos in Slovakia. Confronting Roma Social and Enviromental Exclusion
Author: Richard Filcak / Tamara Steger
Page: 229-250

Abstract: More than half of the Roma population in Slovakia lives in spaces that are segregated or separated from dominant non-Roma communities. The socio-spatial marginalization of Roma is both generated and reinforced through open and discrete social processes and measures largely orchestrated by local governments, enabled by an ineffective state and reinforced by the general socio-economic policy framework. This article builds on extensive field research on predominantly Roma-occupied spaces (i.e., ’settlements’) in Slovakia and focuses on the nature and function of Roma segregation and separation in Slovakia from an ecological socio-political, and economic standpoint. Based on Loïc Wacquant’s work on ethno-racial segregation and the concept of environmental justice, we discuss social and environmental discrimination as one of the constituent elements in understanding Roma socio-spatial marginalization and its functions, and employ the neologism, ’hyper-osada’ as a tool to conceptually and analytically investigate the new impetus and recent trajectory of Roma segregation and separation.

Title: Environmental Inequality in France: A Theoretical, Empirical and Policy Perspective
Author: Éloi Laurent
Page: 251-262

Abstract: This article highlights the challenge of environmental inequality in France within the framework of social-ecology, an approach relating ecological crises to social issues, especially inequality. It starts by defining the notions of environmental inequality and environmental justice within the framework of the ’capability approach’ and then reviews recent empirical studies that show how air pollution, chemical and noise pollutions, access to environmental resources and exposure to social-ecological disasters are socially differentiated in France and can be understood, under the definition adopted in this article, as a form of injustice. It concludes by reviewing issues raised by environmental inequality in France and exploring policy solutions able to address this challenge.

Title: When Is ’Yes to the Mill’ Environmental Justice? Interrogating Sites of Acceptance in Response to Energy Development
Author: Stephanie Malin
Page: 263-285

Abstract: Though grassroots organizations have mobilized against US environmental injustices since the 1980s, academic definitions of environmental justice (EJ) remain limited in important ways, including: a tendency to privilege cases where activists achieve a successful, ’tidy’ outcome; inattention to roles natural resource dependence and free market systems play in structuring environmental inequality; and a tendency to under-analyze alternative notions of EJ that result, utilized by activists who prioritize local autonomy and procedural justice in land-use decision making. Here, I argue that these alternative notions of EJ help mobilize divergent forms of EJ activism ’sites of resistance’ to industrial production systems and their risks, and ’sites of acceptance’ to those same practices. To illustrate, I explore extensive mixed method data in the context of energy development and sites of acceptance related to uranium production in the southwestern United States. I show how alternative notions of EJ are shaped by identification with uranium production, persistent poverty and economic insecurity, and faith that increased uranium production will fuel US nuclear power production and help combat global climate change.

Title: No Environmental Justice Movement in France? Controversy about Pollution in Two Southern French Industrial Towns
Author: Christelle Gramaglia
Page: 287-313

Abstract: This paper describes the emergence of a controversy concerning pollution and environmental and health risks in two southern French towns, Viviez and Salindres, which are both known for their long industrial history. It explores some of the reasons why the majority of the local populations resented the fact that the issues raised were addressed publicly. It also examines some of the coping strategies residents may have developed to avoid talking about risks and to distance themselves from them. It goes on to discuss the differences and similarities in the development of concerns for environmental inequalities in the North American and French contexts, asking, in the manner of Werner Sombart on socialism in the USA at the end of the nineteenth century, why environmental justice is not a strong concern (either as a social movement or frame of analysis) this side of the Atlantic.

Title: Climate Change, Energy Policy and Justice: A Systematic Review
Author: Jason Byrne / Chloe Portanger
Page: 315-343

Abstract: Energy efficiency and energy security are emerging concerns in climate change policy. But there is little acknowledgment of energy justice issues. Marginalised and vulnerable communities may be disproportionately exposed to both climate change impacts (e.g. heat, flooding) and costs associated with energy transitions related to climate change mitigation and adaptation (e.g. particulate exposure from biofuel combustion). Climate change is producing energy-related impacts such as increased cooling costs. In some cases it threatens energy security. Higher electricity costs associated with ’climate proofing’ energy network infrastructure may exacerbate ’fuel poverty’ itself a form of injustice. In this paper we critically review the literature about multiple interrelations between energy policy, justice and climate change. We identify key issues, illuminate knowledge gaps, and synthesise findings to develop a conceptual model. We chart a research agenda and highlight policy implications.

Title: Environmental Inequalities and Democratic Citizenship: Linking Normative Theory with Empirical Research
Author: Fabian Schuppert / Ivo Wallimann-Helmer
Page: 345-366

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to link empirical findings concerning environmental inequalities with different normative yard-sticks for assessing whether these inequalities should be deemed unjust, or not. We argue that such an inquiry must necessarily take into account some caveats regarding both empirical research and normative theory. We suggest that empirical results must be contextualised by establishing geographies of risk. As a normative yard-stick we propose a moderately demanding social-egalitarian account of justice and democratic citizenship, which we take to be best suited to identify unjust as well as legitimate instances of socio-environmental inequality.

Title: Water Justice: A Multilayer Term and Its Role in Cooperation
Author: Angela Kallhoff
Page: 367-382

Abstract: In discussing water justice, this paper distinguishes four concepts of water justice: Distributive justice claims a fair share of water, ecological justice focuses on the integrity of water as a vulnerable resource, cultural justice addresses values attached to water reservoirs, and procedural justice explicates fair procedures in negotiating water conflicts. After having given an overview over recent contributions to the various meanings of water justice, the paper tries to answer the question of how standards of justice can be integrated into an approach that overcomes the alleged tragedies of the commons. It focuses on the example of a water reservoir whose access conditions provoke conflicts among neighbors.

Title: Individual Moral Responsibility and the Problem of Climate Change
Author: Richard Galvin / John R. Harris
Page: 383-396

Abstract: The problems caused by anthropogenic climate change threaten the lives and well-being of millions, yet it seems that we, as individuals, are powerless to prevent or worsen these problems. In this essay we consider the difficulty of assigning moral responsibility in cases of collective action problems like the problem of anthropogentic climate change. We consider two promising solutions, the expected utility and rights based solution, and argue that both are incapable of explaining why individuals have moral obligations to address collective action problems. We believe, however, that this result does not justify inaction, instead it reveals a failure of moral philosophy to adequately address collective action problems. More work must be done to address the moral responsibilities that arise in cases of collective action problems and we close by pointing in the direction of some promising work in this area.

Title: Why Participate in Pro-Environmental Action? Individual Responsibility in Unstructured Collectives
Author: Anton Leist
Page: 397-416

Abstract: The degradation of natural resources in the environment is, technically speaking, a form of depleting a public good. Public goods are notorious for free-riding among egoists, but the marginality of individual contributions provides no less an obstacle, both to moral duty and motivation. This article discusses the problems of minimized and missing causal involvement on the empirical side and, in the applicability of classical moral arguments, on the ethical side. It suggests that individual responsibility is derived on the basis of implicit advantage-taking from participation in collective action.