“environmental justice”Environmental issues such as global warming and climate change, air, water, and land pollution, ozone depletion, species on the verge of extinction, and many other human-induced ecological changes that mankind is now facing are for real and need urgent action. These problems are the direct consequences of inadequate and thoughtless use of limited natural resources by modern society most of which have served to satisfy the needs of only a small percentage of the planet’s population. While all experts agree that environmental issues pose a serious problem which the present and all future generations will have to deal with, some are also concerned about the fact that global ecological changes have been mostly the result of the activities carried out by only a small number of wealthy nations who are not at all the ones that bear the disastrous consequences of those changes.
Experts refer to it as environmental injustice (Costi, pp. 289-309).Environmental InjusticeWilliam Rees and Laura Westra, among others, also refer to environmental injustice as eco-apartheid and argue for the necessity of restoring environmental justice and ecological sustainability through international cooperation.
They argue that the modern economic theory and political economy equating human welfare with constant income growth have turned out to be a complete failure that has led to consumer lifestyles in the West and become the main cause of global ecological decay.
Over-consumption by the rich countries at great ecological cost which have produced more waste than useful products has led to environmental problems from which the poor, not the wealthy countries suffer. This model of development continues to enrich the former and impoverish the latter, and also destroys the planet’s fragile ecosystems on which the poor are directly dependent for their livelihoods (Rees & Westra, pp. 100-104).To better explain the existing environmental injustice, Rees and Westra provide a detailed ecological footprint analysis in which they estimate the demand of a defined population on the planet’s natural resources that are required to satisfy its basic needs.
They maintain that the ecological footprint of a nation (or population) is the area of land and water ecosystems (regardless“Page # 2”of their location) that the nation needs for the production of the resources it consumes and the assimilation of the waste it produces. By applying ecological footprint analysis to the populations and territories of the world’s nations, they demonstrate that the ecological footprint imposed by many wealthy nations on the planet is several times larger than their populations and territories they inhabit. These are the countries such as the USA, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Spain, Australia, and others whose ecological footprints exceed their equitable share of global carrying capacity by at least hundred per cent. The considerable purchasing power of the rich nations allows them to appropriate the productive capacity of the world’s poor which are not used, thus, the poor countries’ export-oriented production satisfies the rich countries’ demand and not local needs.
But if the production is exported to the rich, the ecological damage that it causes remains with and afflicts the poor (Rees & Westra, pp. 109-110).All in all, Rees and Westra further explain, the wealthy fifth of the Earth’s population benefits from over eighty per cent of global economic output. This over-consumption by the wealthy nations is the main cause of scarce ecosystems degradation which will not be sufficient to support today’s global population for a long period of time.
Besides, approximately three billion newcomers are going to arrive within the next forty years (Rees & Westra, p. 112).America, the anti-heroThe United States of America, whose equitable portion of global carrying capacity is less than five per cent actually appropriates almost twenty-five per cent of the Earth’s carrying capacity. It is the leading nation among the world’s biggest polluters of the environment and the world’s largest consumer.
Additionally, it does not bear the direct consequences of global ecological degradation stemming from the exploration of natural resources around the world necessary for the production of the products and services it consumes (Rees & Westra, p. 118). What is more, the United States does not take the environmental issues as seriously as other countries do calling them exaggeration, and refuses to acknowledge the necessity to revise many of its economic policies which contribute to damaging the planet’s ecosystems.“Page # 3”Indeed, the USA refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol to join the international effort to restrict emissions responsible for global warming.
It is one of the principal consumers of fossil fuel generated energy and emitters of carbon dioxide. The U.S. governments have often been criticized for their negligent attitude to environmental issues and for not actively implementing modern alternative energy saving technologies (Duncan, 2006, p.
22). It is not surprising that many have viewed the United States as the most reckless and thoughtless polluter in the world and its policies as environmentally unjust (Rees & Westra, pp. 110).Environmental justice: a panacea?What Rees and Westra suggest is that some ways of relieving the impoverishment of the world’s poor have to be discovered and consumers in the world’s richest countries should reduce their ecological load on the planet creating, thus, more space for growth in the underdeveloped countries.
They also propose that since the affluent nations are the principal careless consumers and negligent polluters of the Earth whose lifestyle directly or indirectly harms the innocent poor nations, it is the former that are to assume responsibility for the consequences of their activities (Rees & Westra, pp. 112-116).Without a doubt, Rees and Westra raise a very important issue of ecological degradation and the environmental crisis which threatens to undermine modern society if immediate action is not taken. They emphasize the existence of environmental injustice which is the main reason why it is the world’s poor who suffer from the degradation, not the world’s rich.
Both these facts are too obvious and few would not acknowledge them. However, the researchers seem to be too much concentrated on the need to restore this environmental justice and argue for the redistribution of the shares of ecological footprints imposed on the earth among the world’s nations based on their populations and territories. This, of course, would protect the poor countries from eco-violence and perhaps help economic growth in the developing world. But will this approach protect the poor from poverty and suffering? In the short run, perhaps.
But not in the long run as it will only postpone the problem and not resolve it.“Page # 4”Environmental justice should have been restored decades ago when humankind was just starting to seriously destroy the planet’s ecosystems and pollute the environment. Now that we face the forthcoming global ecological crisis, environmental justice is “a” but not “the” main issue on the agenda. Restoring it will protect the world’s poor for a short period of time but will not protect the planet’s ecosystems from human-induced degradation.
Even if the international community succeeds in shifting human load on the Earth from the rich nations to the poor ones, the overall demand on the planet’s natural resources will be somewhat reduced but only for a short time period until developing nations become developed ones. Rees and Westra emphasize the necessity for the fairer redistribution of natural resources among the world’s nations but they seem to neglect the fact that due to the forthcoming environmental collapse it is more vital to reduce their use by all means, especially for producing products or services that are not essential for humankind.Rees and Westra point out that additional billions of people will arrive within the next few decades, mainly in the developing world, and that they will only further increase global suffering and poverty unless environmental justice is restored. They are right to emphasize that the global population already exceeds the planet’s carrying capacity by approximately forty per cent and that there simply will not be enough resources to support the whole population.
However, their concern about restoring environmental justice is unlikely to be helpful in this situation. They call for the need of international effort to restore environmental justice, but it seems more urgent to concentrate the international effort on reducing current population growth rates in the developing world and resolving social issues such as, for example, universal education.In his book “Plan B 3.0.
” Lester Brown demonstrates that in the developing world children without any basic education are very likely to remain in poverty all their life and that it leads to the widening gap between the rich and the poor and becomes a serious source of social instability. He also argues for the need to provide more accessible family planning services to women in developing countries before they start their families. The key to social issues such as extreme“Page # 5”poverty, hunger, infectious diseases, and many others, Brown emphasizes, is the necessity to accelerate the reduction of high population growth rates in the developing world. It is feasible and countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, or to some extent Thailand and China which succeeded in significantly cutting their population growth prove that they only benefited from this achievement and became able to modernize, accelerate their economic growth and productivity, and better provide for their citizens.
Another good example is Iran which succeeded in reducing its population growth rate to almost the lowest one among developing countries in only one decade (Brown, 2007, pp. 131-151). As it can be seen, restoring the environmental justice as it is suggested by Rees and Westra is far from being the only and most efficient approach to fight poverty and suffering in the developing world.By contrast, Rees and Westra are right to point out that international effort is necessary to distribute more fairly the remaining natural resources among the nations.
But this effort, support, and experience is also needed to help local governments in the developing world better cope with their social and ecological problems and accelerate the shift to smaller families. With the assistance of the international community, smaller and educated developing nations will be able to better manage their resources (Brown, 2007, pp. 131-151).Another important argument provided by Rees and Westra is the necessity to stop pursuing constant economic growth which leads to over-consumption in developed countries, attempts to achieve constant economic growth at the expense of environmental considerations in new democracies, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, and the accelerated exhaustion of the planet’s eco-systems in general (Rees & Westra, pp.
101; Costi, pp. 289-309). However, Rees and Westra do not provide clear details how to implement this policy, which methods are to be to used, at which stages over-production and over-consumption have to be stopped and then reduced, how to define which products and services are to be considered basic and necessary for modern society and which not, etc. BIBLIOGRAPHY:Brown, L.
R. (2007). Plan B 3.0.
Retrieved April 10, 2008 from the World Wide Web: www.earth-policy.orgCosti, A. Environmental Protection, Economic Growth, and Environmental Justice: Are They Compatible in Central and Eastern Europe? 289-309Duncan, E.
(2006, September 9). The heat is on. The Economist, 1-24Rees, W. E.
, & Westra, L. When Consumption Does Violence: Can there be Sustainability and Environmental Justice in a Resource-limited World? 99-121
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Environmental justice. (2017, Mar 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/environmental-justice/