So what exactly is Environmental Justice?

Before I blog about the issues theory and policy surrounding environmental justice that titles this webpage, I want to explain the process I took in defining environmental justice itself and then to examine what scholars had written about the concept/movement. I felt that comprehending environmental justice was of the utmost importance as by understanding it I can apply not only the aspects of Environmental justice underlined by scholars, but my own ideas, to any contemporary examples of environmental conflicts, protests, policies and degradation. Environmental justice has been defined most simply as “Fair access to a clean, healthy environment, regardless of class, race, or income level, or other status” (www.greenbeebuzz.com). However, by breaking the word justice down environmental justice becomes a broader concept that can incorporate issues and policy on different scales.

Firstly, I will outline the key aspects behind justice itself (Collins English Dictionary)

  • The principle of fairness
  • Fair distribution of benefits and burdens
  • Administration of law in accordance with prescribed and accepted principles
  • Conformity to the law
  • To make full use of one’s ability

These principles can be applied to many of the issues and policies that surround environmental news. Whether it is applying the principle of fairness to issues of indigenous exploitation in the development of their valued lands or the administration of and conformity to law where global environmental policies are passed. The point that interests me most however, is ‘making full use of one’s ability,’ environmentally this point has implications for whole countries as well as individuals as to whether they are doing themselves justice in protecting the environment. These aspects of justice I will attempt to use throughout all of the blogs I write, using them to explain the justice or injustice in several examples.

Scholars have written about Environmental Justice in many ways, but the first thing that stood out for me was the fact that Environmental Justice was a movement, rather than just a concept. The movement began in the United States of America in the 1970’s and was mostly made up of minority groups comprising of people from low socio-economic backgrounds. Mostly the groups looked at tackling precise sources of pollution, always tackling a specific urban problem with the survival of the human residents at the centre of their work. Support of the movement came from redefining the environment to include not only photogenic endangered species or pristine ‘wilderness environments’ but also human health risks associated with industrial pollution.  This has made environmental justice a powerful movement as now it includes both ecocentric and anthropocentric positions. This includes not only urban industrial waste issues, but deforestation and habitat destruction, carbon emissions and its associated consequences most importantly in both local and global scales (Arcioni and Mitchell, 2005).

With this knowledge of environmental justice my future blogs will be example based attaching the aspects of justice to issues, policies and theories in contemporary environmental news. Using the definitions as a framework, I hope to make the concept and the movement of environmental justice clear to see in a range of different contexts.

References:

Arcioni, E. and Mitchell, G. (2005) ‘Environmental Justice in Australia: When the RATS become IRATE’ Environmental Politics 14 (3) p. 363-379

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