Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability

Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability

Kerri Woods

Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability challenges the assumed harmony between human rights norms and the demands of environmental sustainability, by addressing conceptual, normative, and political questions surrounding the interaction between the two.

Chapter 5: The Institutions of Sustainability: Citizenship, Democracy and Justice

Kerri Woods

Subjects: environment, environmental politics and policy, law - academic, human rights, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, european politics and policy, human rights


The question is how much sustainability can liberal democratic theory and practice deliver, or, vice versa, how much or what sorts of sustainability and ecological concern is compatible with liberal democracy? (Barry 2001, pp. 59–60) 5.1 INTRODUCTION Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption are the result of policy choices that are themselves reflections of values and beliefs about how best to live. Similarly, sustainable patterns of living will also emerge from particular policy choices, which will reflect somewhat different values and beliefs. An account of sustainability defined in materialist economic terms is only a partial one. What is further needed is an account of the political institutions that can foster and maintain the sustainable management of economy–environment relations. In the previous chapter I argued that the principles of ‘reflexiveness’ and ‘appropriateness’ were central to ecological economics. I also stressed the ecological embeddedness of all human activity. In this chapter I look at how such principles are translated in green theories of citizenship, democracy and justice.54 As Robyn Eckersley (1992) notes, green political thought is predominantly post-liberal rather than anti-liberal; liberal values such as freedom and equality are embraced, while anti-environmental elements of liberal thought are rejected. Duty looms large in green accounts of citizenship and justice, and insofar as deliberative democracy is taken to be a practice of green citizenship, engaging in deliberative forms is itself presented as a duty. For political institutions to be stable, the rationale for these duties must be intelligible to citizens. The legitimacy...

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