Archive for January, 2013

January 30, 2013 3 comments

Informative piece on the relationship between indigenous communities and climate change. Consider this while you read Schlosberg and Carruthers next week.

RFF Library Blog

Brookings Institution / by Ilan Kelman and Marius Warg Næss

This paper explores anthropogenic climate change influencing displacement/migration for the Saami in Finland, Norway and Sweden near or above the Arctic Circle. Norway plays a large role throughout this discussion because (i) most residents in Arctic Scandinavia live in Norway, (ii) most indigenous peoples in Arctic Scandinavia live in Norway, and (iii) Norway is the only country of the three which has Arctic coastline…

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Why Race Matters After Sandy

January 26, 2013 1 comment

Manissa M. Maharawal

 by Manissa McCleave Maharawal and Isabelle Nastasia | Originally Published on Waging Nonviolence, December 11, 2012

During the fall of 1962, residents of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn saw the trash accumulating on their sidewalks and realized that the city didn’t care about them the way it did about others. Their children had to play in stinky garbage while other neighborhoods had trees and parks. They complained to elected officials and the Sanitation Department, but the problem never got better. So, in response, they began organizing weekly garbage clean-ups across Bed-Stuy — a temporary solution — while also working toward a holistic solution to the abundance of garbage and the scarcity of city resources devoted to the area through on-the-ground organizing. For two years residents and members of the Brooklyn chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organized tirelessly for increased garbage collection, asserting over and over again…

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El Pueblo Fights Back Against Toxic Waste

January 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Photo essay on Biofuels and Food (The New York Times)

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Is the choice between climate over hunger?  Or is there another way to think about this? Check this out: The Cost of Biofuels in Guatemala

Here is the related article: The Cost of Biofuel in Guatemala

The New York Times – Taking a Harder Look at Fracking and Health

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Check out this recent article (Taking a Harder Look at Fracking and Health – The New York Times) on fracking and health. This is a very topic for a literature review (hint hint).

Three Dimensions of Distributive Justice

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Our conversation of distributive justice revolved around three issues: (1) who is the recipient of justice (or what is the community of justice), (2) what is to be distributed, and (3) what are the principles of distribution.

I am going to begin with the third, since we spent most time on that in class. We considered the principle of justice emerging out of various theories, from Utilitarianism to Kantian ethics and Rawl’s theory of justice (remember “the veil of ignorance”?). We need to consider more deeply the implications of these principles and recognize when they operate, inform, or shape how people talk about environmental justice. These ideas have seeped into our collective consciousness, albeit in a rather haphazard (and even sloppy way), but nonetheless the are there. Compensatory thinking, the idea that a bad can be compensated, is one of those ideas from utilitarianism. Kant’s notion of universal application of rules is another. My goal in this class is to make sense out of these ideas, place them in context, and for you, the students, to carefully and mindfully engage them as we confront environment issues and conflicts in our reading and films.

We did not spend too much time on the question of “community of justice.” Indeed this was given short shrift (by me) as we discussed the material. But I don’t want to forget this dimension as it has relevance our own formulation of what is moral obligation in relation to the individual and the collective. Our societal norms and dominant belief systems revolve around, and indeed are grounded in, individualism. Yet, in the context of environmental justice, communities and group, or collectivities, make claims, present evidence, and demand action. Therefore, rather than remaining within the ideological frame that the individual is the only recipient of justice (again, as it is reinforced in societal norms and practices), the concept of “community of justice” opens up new dimensions to both the definition and claimants at the intersection of society and environment.

The last dimension of distributive justice that Walker outlines in his chapter is the object, the thing, the “what” is to be distributed. Is it merely an environmental “bad” or “burden”? Is it benefit? Who defines what these are? How are these to be understood? Indeed, as Walker points out, “the concepts of benefits and burdens are always relative, in both absolute terms and with respect to any particular group of potential resource users” (page 43).  We need to consider how they are relative, how they are defined by different groups and through multiple or different value systems.  For someone, a view of the mountains may be aesthetically pleasing, but for another, it may be sacred.  It may seem simple to think of the “what” but as one considers more deeply the meaning of environment, nature, health, community, place, and all the other dimensions of what is at stake in environmental conflicts and resource-use decisions, the clarity fades.  One is then required to confront the trickier and more nuanced philosophical questions that lie at the heart of any environmental justice claim.

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