Justice and the Environment: Conceptions of Environmental Sustainability and Theories of Distributive Justice

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Environmental sustainability and social, or distributive, justice are both widely regarded as desirable social objectives. But can we assume that they are compatible with each other? In this path-breaking study, Professor Dobson, a leading expert on environmental politics, analyses the complex relationship between these two pressing objectives. Environmental sustainability is taken to be a contested idea, and three distinct conceptions of it are described and explored. These conceptions are then examined in the context of fundamental distributive questions such as: Among whom or what should distribution take place? What should be distributed? What should the principle of distribution be? The author critically examines the claims of the 'environmental justice' and 'sustainable development' movements that social justice and environmental sustainability are points on the same virtuous circle, and concludes that radical environmental demands are only incompletely served by couching them in terms of justice.