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Social Justice

Social Justice

(p.138) Six Social Justice
Our Oldest Task
Eric T. Freyfogle
University of Chicago Press

This chapter continues the effort to construct an overall normative frame for distinguishing land use from land abuse. It takes up elements of social justice, defined more broadly than typically done in discussions of environmental justice. Social justice includes how we share the good parts of nature as well as environmental bads. It considers how actions (including consumption) by some people adversely affect others, effects that should register in moral assessments. And it contends that good land use requires the support and engagement of local people and that injustice occurs when local people are powerless to control key decisions about their landscapes. This critique extends to private property, a morally complex institution that vests power over nature in the hands of individual owners. Particularly with climate change humans must share the earth fairly and make room for one another taking into account variations in the productivity of landscapes. The chapter challenges common understandings of environmental racism as sometimes too focused on the racism (social justice) aspect and insufficiently attentive to ecological degradation. It ends by challenging the tendency to blend environmental goals with social justice goals into a single goal that can allow economic development to justify continuing degradation.

Keywords:   climate justice, environmental harms, environmental justice, environmental racism, local control, private property, sharing the earth

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