Theorizing Environmental Justice: The Expanding Sphere of a Discourse

David Schlosberg Professor of Environmental Politics

Overview
• EJ has always challenged standard definitions
– ‘Environment’ and ‘Justice’

• EJ discourse has expanded horizontally, vertically, and conceptually
– More issues and countries, global focus, communities, and the nonhuman realm

• EJ is the basis of a range of new movements
– Climate justice, ecosystems, new sustainability

• KEY: A shift from environment as symptom of inequity to environment as basis of justice
2

Origins
• Toxic dumps in low-income communities • The intersection of poverty and race as indicators of environmental bads – and goods

3

Defining Environment
• Where we live, work, and play • Environment is more than wilderness • EJ attempted to bring a broader view of environment into practice

4

Defining (In)Justice
• • • • Distribution Race/Recognition and respect Participation Basic needs for functioning communities

5

Expanding Spaces of EJ
• More issues – transport, land use, food… • More places – from Latin America to Russia to Australia • Globalizing EJ analysis – indigenous rights, global toxics trade, climate vulnerability • Individual and Community analysis
– Katrina, health, gas mining protests

6

EJ Framing for New Challenges 1
• Climate Justice
– Traditional justice approaches: equity, responsibility, participation, restorative justice – Movement approaches: climate change as another manifestation of environmental injustice – Now: adaptation, vulnerability – But also, non-human nature
• Katrina, again. • Coal mining in Oz?

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EJ Framing for New Challenges 2
• Beyond the human focus – justice to nonhuman • Injustice = the interruption of the functioning of living systems
– UNFCCC: focus is impact on climate systems – Restoration: from history to functioning – Constitutional rights – Ecuador, Bolivia, New Zealand

Whanganui River

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EJ Framing for New Challenges 3
• New or Sustainable Materialism
– EJ and Sustainability in one

• Food justice movements
– From food deserts to community gardens and markets

• Just energy transition • Engagement with practices that undermine sustainability
– Creation of just material flows in everyday life
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Conclusions
• Theory and practice in/of EJ • The salience of environmental justice as a way of understanding experiences of human relationships with the nonhuman – the experience of environmental disadvantage. • The crucial shift: from environment as a symptom of inequity to environment as the precondition for social justice
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Theorizing Environmental Justice: The Expanding Sphere of a Discourse
David Schlosberg Professor of Environmental Politics

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