The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Second Edition
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The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Second Edition

Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

This thoroughly revised Handbook provides an assessment of the scope and content of environmental sociology, and sets out the intellectual and practical challenges posed by the urgent need for policy and action to address accelerating environmental change.
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Chapter 10: Ecological Debt: An Integrating Concept for Socio-Environmental Change

Iñaki Barcena Hinojal and Rosa Lago Aurrekoetxea


Iñaki Barcena Hinojal and Rosa Lago Aurrekoetxea Seeking to define the ecological debt The concept of ecological debt originated in the written literature and the contributions made by the popular movements of the South, specifically the Institute of Political Ecology of Chile on the occasion of the Rio de Janeiro Summit (1992). Since then, it has come to be used in other geographical areas, and it has moved from the associative field and the social movements to the academic and institutional spheres. Unlike other sister concepts, such as the ‘ecological footprint’ (Wackernagel and Rees, 1996) or ‘ecological space’ (Spangenberg, 1995), which emerged in university research circles and were later popularized through publications and the mass media, the concept of ecological debt has followed an inverse path, moving from the bottom to the top. Our aim is that ‘ecological debt’ should play a role as relevant as that of the concepts of ‘ecological footprint’ and ‘space’, since both were enthusiastically received by environmental activism (WWF and Friends of the Earth), and such indicators are now taken into account by governments and institutions in public environmental policies from the local level to the United Nations. The prevailing economic system ‘externalizes’ the social and environmental impacts it provokes; it does not recognize them as its own or as something inherent in its economic model. The ecological debt is intended to help in developing new theories that argue for ‘internalizing’ these impacts, making them one of the basic axes of a new paradigm...

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