Can Eco-Systems be Subjects of Justice? No, but ... Schlosberg, Nussbaum & Structural Injustice
2 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2011 Last revised: 20 May 2014
Date Written: 2011
An emerging debate: David Schlosberg – in Defining Environmental Justice (2007) - and Martha Nussbaum – in Creating Capabilities (2011) - disagree about whether eco-systems can be subjects of justice. Schlosberg says “yes”, and Nussbaum says “no”. This debate first appeared in 2007 and 2008 when Schlosberg and Nussbaum were on panels together. Despite differences, there may be a way to make sense of both sides. In structural injustice, a system within a society bears poorly on individual subjects of justice, leading to widespread patterns of injustice. While an eco-system cannot be a subject of justice, it can be a site of justice – or of injustice. Could, additionally, an ecosystem be a site of structural injustice, where an unjust system rains injustice down on individuals deserving justice? Some of these individuals, following Nussbaum, can be non-humans. So could “injustice to an eco-system” be precisely re-described as turning the eco-system into, e.g., a cesspool of injustice?
Keywords: ecological justice, capability approach, structural injustice, eco-systems
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