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Global Environmental Governance James Gustave Speth and Peter M. Haas. Speth and Haas: Ten of the major global environmental challenges are: Acid rain and regional air pollution Ozone depletion Climate disruption [global climate change] Deforestation Land degradation and desertification

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Global Environmental Governance James Gustave Speth and Peter M. Haas

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Global Environmental GovernanceJames Gustave Speth and Peter M. Haas

Speth and Haas: Ten of the major global environmental challenges are:

Acid rain and regional air pollution

Ozone depletion

Climate disruption [global climate change]


Land degradation and desertification

Freshwater degradation and shortages

Marine fisheries decline

Toxic pollutants

Loss of biological diversity

Excess nitrogen

Environmental Justice

Traditional Environmentalism:Group of Ten in the 1980s

  • National Wildlife Federation

  • Issak Walton League

  • National Audubon Society

  • Sierra Club

  • Wilderness Society

  • National Resources Defense Council

  • Environmental Defense Fund

  • Environmental Policy Center

  • Friends of the Earth

  • National Parks and Conservation Association

Some Criticisms of Traditional Environmentalism in the US in the 1980s

  • It had lost its bite and become a culture of reform.

  • It was dominated by professionalism.

  • A number of groups were held hostage by corporate philanthropy and big money.

  • A number of groups had lost touch with their grassroots constituency.

  • Many groups did not adequately address urban and rural environmental concerns.

  • The movement was still largely a white men’s club.

Enter: The Environmental Justice Movement

By the 1980s, a new type of grassroots environmentalism had clearly arrived in the US.

  • It was a blending of social justice and environmental concerns.

  • It was led primarily by people of color, women, blue collar labor, and marginalized peoples.

  • It focused more on urban and rural environments: “where we live, where we work, where we play, and where we pray.”

  • It was largely a response to inequities in the distribution of environmental burdens, the failure of environmental laws and governmental agencies to protect people, and the failure of mainstream environmental groups to address social concerns.

  • Distributive justice was not necessarily its overriding concern.

Different Tributaries That Nourished the Stream of the EJ Movement in the US

  • Civil Rights Movement

  • Anti-Toxics Movement

  • Labor Movement

  • Indigenous Peoples Struggles

  • Academia

  • Traditional Environmentalism

Some Central Concerns of the EJ Movement in the US

  • Siting of facilities that produce toxic and hazardous materials and waste

  • Environmental racism

  • Institutional and environmental discrimination

  • Occupational health and safety in industrial and agricultural sectors

  • Land rights

  • Urban environmental politics and the right to a safe, livable environment

  • Struggles of indigenous peoples

Justice Dimensions of Environmental Justice

1. Distributive Justice: How should environmental burdens and benefits be distributed (or redistributed)?

And there’s also:

2. Procedural Justice: What are fair and equitable procedures for making distribution decisions?


What’s missing is an examination of social, cultural, symbolic, and institutional conditions underlying unfair distributions of burdens and benefits.

Distributive Justice and Barriers to Democratic Participation

  • Within many contemporary theories of justice, the link between distributive justice schemes and participating in these schemes is not clear.

  • While these theories of justice might look good as theories of justice, they might not actually help advance justice in the world because of barriers to democratic participation.

  • These barriers are not the kinds of things that ought to get distributed. They simply should not exist.

Another Justice Dimension of Environmental Justice

Participatory Justice

  • Who gets to make the decisions about how to distribute environmental burdens and benefits?

  • One important insight from the EJ Movement is that participatory justice might be more important than distributive and procedural justice—focusing on distributions and procedures obscures social structures and the institutional context in which environmental decisions are made.

More Justice Dimensions of EJ:Recognition and Identity

  • If you aren’t recognized and respected, you don’t participate in decision-making.

  • Recognition and identity are not goods to be distributed like burdens and benefits.

  • This creates a need to look at the relationships between social, cultural, and environmental harms and benefits, as well as the lack of democratic participation.

Example of Recognition/Identity Injustice:Racism

  • Racism = a doctrine of superiority. Classically, racism is understood to be a set of beliefs in which one racial or ethnic group believes itself to be superior to another racial or ethnic group. These beliefs can be expressed as thoughts and/or through behaviors.

  • Intentional Racism: manifestation in action of a racist disposition with an intent to discriminate.

  • Unintentional Racism: acting like a racist would without holding a racist doctrine, such that actions result in racist consequences without a direct intent to discriminate.

  • Intentional and unintentional racism can be the acts of single persons and the acts of institutions.

Institutional Racism

  • Structural Racism: Pertains to the practices of institutions within a social superstructure, which includes the legal system, laws, governments, schools, religions, and other structural institutions.

  • Habitual Racism: Pertains to practices that are guided by policies, laws, or customs that have been in place for so long that people have become habituated to them.

  • Legacy Racism: Effects of past institutions that leave a racial or ethnic group in a disadvantaged social position such that a present judgment might reify and sustain the disadvantage of members of the racial or ethnic group without immediate racist or discriminatory intent.

Justice Dimensions of Environmental Justice

  • Recognition or identity justice

  • Participatory justice

  • Distributive justice

  • Procedural justice

  • Restitutive or compensatory justice

  • Transformative Justice

    Slogan of the EJ Movement:

    “We speak for ourselves.”

Principles of Environmental Justice

EJ Scholar/Activist Robert Bullard: Dominant Environmental Protection Paradigm

  • Exists to manage, regulate, and distribute risks.

  • Reinforces, rather than challenges, existing unjust stratifications of people and places.

    “The Environmental Justice Movement provides a bottom-up challenge to this paradigm.”

Bullard’s New Environmental Justice Framework

  • Ground the framework on the principle that all individuals have the right to be protected from environmental degradation.

  • Also ground the framework on the precautionary principle to protect workers, communities, and ecosystems.

  • Shift the burden of proof to polluters and dischargers who do harm, who discriminate, and/or who do not give equal protection to all racial and ethnic groups.

  • Adopt a public health model of prevention as the preferred strategy to eliminate a threat before it occurs.

Some Issues Mentioned on EJM Web Sites

Air pollutionGenocidePolice brutality/abuse


BrownfieldsHealth careProcedural justice

ConsumptionHomelessnessRacial discrimination

Corporate accountabilityHousingRecycling

Corporate liabilityHuman geneticsReparations

Corporate welfareHuman rightsSovereignty

CrimeImmigrant rightsSustainable agriculture

Cultural disempowermentJobs/unemploymentSustainable development

Decision makingLand use/zoningTenants’ rights

DeforestationLead poisoningToxics

Disability rights Medical researchTransportation


EnergyNuclear testingWaste disposal

Environmental racismOil and mineral extractionWater pollution

Facility sitingParks and recreationWildlife

FoodPesticidesWorker safety and health


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