Edited by Edward A. Page and Michael R. Redclift
Chapter 3: The Environment and Civil Society: The Rights to Nature, and the Rights of Nature
Michael Redclift 1 INTRODUCTION Much of the discussion of environmental security has confused the implications of environmental problems for the human condition with the effects of human activities on the natural environment. In the Introduction it was suggested that we might begin by distinguishing between ecological security and environmental security. This chapter examines the way in which the international dimensions of sustainability have also confused the rights to ‘manage’ nature, which is largely informed by a science paradigm, with the civil rights of populations, most of which are faced with difﬁcult environmental problems and choices. It is suggested that we need to look hard at the basis for the legitimacy of our actions, and avoid confusing human rights in civil society with our obligations to environmental sustainability. For some time now the term ‘sustainability’ has only existed within quotation marks. Like the transition from feminism to ‘gender studies’, the attention to what is sustainable, and how it is measured, has had a profoundly depoliticising effect. This is not to argue that measuring sustainability is a purposeless activity, merely that sustainability discourses frequently mark the point at which the idea of sustainability loses its radical edge (Redclift, 1999). The re-emergence of market economics and neo-liberal policies in the 1980s, with which the measurement of sustainability is associated, clearly marked a watershed for environmental politics. Increasingly ‘sustainability’ was detached from the environment, and environmental sustainability was confused with wider questions of equity, governance and social justice, which were themselves given weight...
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