JUSTICE AND THE ENVIRONMENT: CONCEPTIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY AND THEORIES OF DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE
1.1 Background of Study
The idea of environmental justice has been a central concern for academics in a range of disciplines, and both the concept and its coverage have expanded substantially in the past two decades. Clearly, the discourse of environmental justice has been broadening and expanding in scope far beyond its initial application to inequities in the distribution of environmental risk, and here I examine this development in three key ways. First, the researcher explores how the early work on environmental justice pushed beyond simple boundaries. The idea of environmental justice challenged the very notion of ‘environment’, examined multiple reasons for the construction of injustice, and illustrated the potential of varied and pluralistic conceptions of social justice. More recently, there have been numerous ways in which the discourse has expanded. As key reflections have argued, there has been a spatial expansion of the use of the term, both horizon-tally into a broader range of issues and vertically into examinations of the truly global nature of environmental injustices (Sze and London 2008, Walker 2009).
This expanding sphere of the environmental justice discourse has, I argue, been extended further with the application of the frame to climate change and climate justice, as well as growing concerns and movements around local food and energy that have become the centre of some environmental justice organis-ing. Climate change has pushed environmental justice to more broad considera-tions of both environment and justice. The turn to a growing focus on sustainable materialism illustrates a sophisticated analysis of power and injustice on the part of environmental justice movements and an important development in transformative politics and practice. Both trends extend a conception of environmental justice into a new realm – where environment and nature are understood to create the conditions for social justice.
While ithas been previously argued (Schlosberg 2004) that theories of environmental justice, and academic work on the concept in general, were often detached from the innovations of both movements and theory, the broadening and deepening work on environmental justice in the past decade shows much more thorough engagement with these innovations.