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Sustainable Development and Social Justice: Expanding the Rawlsian Framework of Global Justice

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  • Oluf Langhelle
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    Abstract

    This article makes two arguments. First, that social justice constitutes an inherent part of the conception of sustainable development that the World Commission on Environment and Development outlined in Our Common Future (1987). The primary goal of the Commission was to reconcile physical sustainability, need satisfaction and equal opportunities, within and between generations. Sustainable development is what defines this reconciliation. Second, it is argued that this conception of sustainable development is broadly compatible with liberal theories of justice. Sustainable development, however, goes beyond liberal theories of justice in many respects. It is based on three assumptions, which are for the most part ignored in liberal theories: an accelerating ecological interdependence, historical inequality in past resource use, and the 'growth of limits'. These assumptions create a conflict between intra- and intergenerational justice, which is ignored in liberal theories, but which sustainable development tries to solve. It does so by imposing duties on developed countries that goes beyond liberal demands, and by abandoning the focus 'solely on protection' that dominates non-anthropocentric approaches to environmental sustainability.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by White Horse Press in its journal Environmental Values.

    Volume (Year): 9 (2000)
    Issue (Month): 3 (August)
    Pages: 295-323

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    Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev9:ev913

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    Web page: http://www.erica.demon.co.uk

    Related research

    Keywords: biological diversity; climate change; global justice; sustainable development;

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    Cited by:
    1. Schlör, Holger & Fischer, Wolfgang & Hake, Jürgen-Friedrich, 2013. "Sustainable development, justice and the Atkinson index: Measuring the distributional effects of the German energy transition," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 1493-1499.
    2. Graham Long, 2011. "Disagreement and Responses to Climate Change," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 20(4), pages 503-525, November.
    3. Stefanie Glotzbach, 2011. "On the notion of ecological justice," Working Paper Series in Economics 204, University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics.
    4. Pelletier, Nathan, 2010. "Environmental sustainability as the first principle of distributive justice: Towards an ecological communitarian normative foundation for ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(10), pages 1887-1894, August.
    5. Michael Redclift, 2005. "Sustainable development (1987-2005): an oxymoron comes of age," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(4), pages 212-227.

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