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About this book

This textbook offers a comprehensive overview of the most prominent theories, concepts and debates in environmental political thinking. In doing so, Robert Garner – an esteemed scholar in the field – offers a foundation from which readers can better tackle perennially thorny questions such as what environmental cost can we bear for development, what do we mean by terms such as ‘sustainability’, and how might we reconcile competing interests and influences in the political sphere.

Garner concludes his introductory account by exploring the idea of a sustainable future and how society must be structured in order to achieve it, encouraging readers to consider the theoretical when considering the all-too important reality.

This text is designed for those studying environmental and green political thought, as well as readers keen to understand the development of environmental political thought over recent generations.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Idea of Environmental Politics

Abstract
This book is about the political ideas current in thinking about the environment. It operates with a broad definition of ‘ideas’, including normative and empirical dimensions, and a broad definition of the ‘political’, focusing not only on the state, but also civil society and the individual. Above all, the aim is to explain how a ‘politics’ of the environment can be distinguished from the coverage of other disciplines and, in particular, from environmental science. To do this, it is necessary to explore, in this introductory chapter, the idea of politics itself. What distinguishes a politicsof the environment is the recognition that there are a variety of competing interests and values that need to be identified and explored. Environmental degradation does not affect all currently living humans in the same way. Moreover, the extent to which the goals of the Green movement are embraced depends upon the values adopted and, more specifically, what is regarded as an appropriate ethical position about the relationship between the human and non-human realms.
Robert Garner

2. The Emergence of the Environment as a Political Issue

Abstract
An obvious initial question to ask is why the idea of environmental protection has become so politically salient in recent decades. Intuitively, one might think that the rise of environmentalism as a political issue maps on to the existence of objective environmental problems. However, we cannot just assume that the former accounts for the latter. Indeed, adapting Martell (1994: 4), it is possible to identify three possible types of explanations for the rise of the environment as an important social and political issue. First, there are those that see growing environmental concern as a by-product of cultural and structural factors happening independently of the actual objective state of the environment (reviewed in Lowe and Rudig, 1986: 513–20). Second, there are those that place emphasis on the mediating influences of the environmental lobby, the media and scientists. Finally, there are those that focus on the existence of worsening environmental problems as the key trigger for concern. The chapter concludes, therefore, by documenting the range and effects of these problems. By then, however, it should be appreciated that documenting the objective reality of environmental problems is much more straightforward than explaining why the environment has emerged as an important social and political issue.
Robert Garner

3. The Political Economy of Environmentalism

Abstract
The economic realm is central to a study of environmental politics. The choices presented would seem to be stark. It is widely thought that huge benefits derive from ever-increasing economic activity. At the same time, economic growth is said by some to be deleterious to the protection of the natural environment, and, if not constrained, will breach the limits of the planet’s finite capacity to support human and non-human life. This chapter explores the relationship between economic activity and environmental protection. It documents the perceived benefits of economic growth before going on to examine the challenges to it. A crucial distinction here is between an environmental critique and a wider social critique of economic growth.
Robert Garner

4. Environmental Ethics

Abstract
This chapter explores the ethical dimension of environmental politics. After setting out a few preliminaries, the chapter outlines the key positions in the debate, namely anthropocentrism, sentient-centrism, biocentrism and ecocentrism. Following this, the case for regarding future generations as morally considerable is explored and the main critique of an ecocentric ethic is set out, followed by responses. Finally, the chapter asks how far an enlightened anthropocentrism is an effective ethical vehicle to achieve the goal of environmental protection.
Robert Garner

5. Animal Ethics

Abstract
This chapter explores the ideas current in the field of animal ethics. The first part outlines the positions and approaches in the animal ethics debate. The evaluative contours of the debate between these respective positions are then provided, with particular focus on the animal rights vs welfare and animal rights vs utilitarianism debates. Thirdly, the chapter explores the more recent literature in animal ethics that seeks to differentiate between the moral obligations we owe to wild and domesticated animals. Finally, the often conflictual relationship between animal ethics and environmental ethics is outlined, and the possibility of a reconciliation considered.
Robert Garner

6. The State and the Environment

Abstract
This chapter centres on the role of the state but in truth has a wider remit in that it asks what is the most appropriate political vehicle for environmental protection. Alternatives to the state – both from above and below – are considered in an attempt to evaluate the claim made by some that the state remains the ideal institution from a Green perspective. It is noted that much ecological thought tends to have a negative view of the traditional nation state, and advocates instead the devolution of power and authority to smaller political units. This anti-state decentralist position, however, seems seriously at odds with the increasingly global character of environmental problems which necessitates greater co-operation between states and the creation of stronger supranational institutions.
Robert Garner

7. Environmentalism and Democracy

Abstract
It is self-evident to most environmental activists and scholars that the Green state must be democratic. This is not surprising since democracy is now almost universally regarded in a favourable light. However, the relationship between democracy and environmentalism is problematic. Indeed, it has been suggested that democracy is in fact incompatible with the effective protection of the environment. At the very least, the relationship is contingent. The recognition that the relationship is problematic has led Green political theorists to suggest ways in which democratic political systems, as currently constituted, might be reformed. This chapter considers two suggestions. One is the claims made for deliberative democracy. The other, more radical, step is the advocacy of an ecological theory of democracy which seeks to expand the boundaries of the democratic community by incorporating non-human
Robert Garner

8. The Environment and the Idea of Global Justice

Abstract
The relationship between environmental sustainability and a concept that is central to politics, justice, has become an increasingly important preoccupation of environmental political theorists (Dobson, 1998; Schlosberg, 2007, 2013; Wenz, 1988). The question here is the degree to which protecting the environment can be regarded as just. The concept of justice has been a key concern for political philosophers dating back at least to the Greeks. The mainstream definition is that justice is about distributing benefits and burdens according to what recipients are due (Campbell, 1988: 19), but there are also alternative, or additional, models based on recognition, participation and capabilities. Defining the concept is the easy task. It is a much more difficult, not to say contentious, matter to decide what these benefits and burdens are, how they are to be distributed, to whom and by whom.
Robert Garner

9. The environment and Political Ideologies

Abstract
This chapter – on the relationship between the environment and political ideologies – has been left until now because many of the preceding chapters have, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, drawn from a variety of ideological traditions. This is not surprising given that all of the major ideological traditions consist of a combination of concepts. It is sometimes said that ideologies are less rigorous and sophisticated than ‘proper’ political philosophy. In reality, as Vincent (1995: 17) points out: ‘ideological themes can be found on a continuum from the most banal jumbled rhetoric up to the most astute theorizing’. This chapter is concerned with codifying the links, many of which have already been identified, between environmental protection and traditional ideologies. It will be asked which conventional ideological tradition – whether liberalism, conservatism, Marxism, socialism, feminism, anarchism or even authoritarianism/fascism – is most compatible with environmental protection or, alternatively, whether environmentalism (or, to be more precise, ecologism) is best seen as a distinct ideology.
Robert Garner

10. Conclusion: the Idea of a Sustainable Future and How to Achieve it

Abstract
This book has engaged with the key political ideas pertaining to the human relationship with the natural environment. It has been structured around three key organising themes – interests, values and inclusion. The existence of competing interests and values, and the debate about who should be included as morally considerable and worthy of political inclusion, constitutes the political dimension of environmentalism. What has been revealed is considerable disagreement about what a sustainable society is, how it ought to be achieved, and for whom it is designed. This confirms why a politicsof the environment is necessary and is likely to continue.
Robert Garner
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