The Political Economy of the Environment
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The Political Economy of the Environment

James K. Boyce

In a provocative and original analysis, James K. Boyce examines the dynamics of environmental degradation in terms of the balances of power between the winners and the losers. He provides evidence that inequalities of power and wealth affect not only the distribution of environmental costs, but also their overall magnitude: greater inequalities result in more environmental degradation. Democratization – movement toward a more equitable distribution of power – therefore is not only a worthwhile objective in its own right, but also an important means toward the social goals of environmental protection and sustainable development.
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Chapter 2: Let Them Eat Risk?

James K. Boyce


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. United States Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 Every person shall have the right to an environment which is not detrimental to his or her health or well-being. Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, April 27, 1994 INTRODUCTION Two centuries of history separate the United States Declaration of Independence from the post-apartheid Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, but both documents share the fundamental principle that each person has an equal right to life. This remains a revolutionary idea even today, as we enter the twenty-first century. Bold words do not translate instantly into facts on the ground. More than eight decades elapsed after the Declaration of Independence before the abolition of slavery in the United States. But declarations of principle can define a society’s goals, setting a standard by which to judge its subsequent accomplishments. The idea that every person is endowed with equal rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and a safe and healthy environment is a universalistic ethical precept. To be sure, it is not universally accepted, let alone universally honored. But this principle has won increasingly widespread acceptance throughout the world, and today it is formally incorporated in the constitutions of governments that span the globe (for examples, see the accompanying box on the following...

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