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Giving Living Beings their Due
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As the biodiversity crisis deepens, Anna Wienhues sets out radical environmental thinking and action to respond to the threat of mass species extinction.

The book conceptualises large-scale injustice endangering non-humans, and signposts new approaches to the conservation of a shared planet. Developing principles of distributive ecological justice, it builds towards a bold vision of just conservation that can inform the work of policy makers and activists.

This is a timely, original and compelling investigation into ethics in the natural world during the Anthropocene, and a call for biocentric ecological justice before it is too late.

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This chapter analyses the question of how one can move from claims about moral considerability to claims about justice. Moral considerability is a necessary, but not sufficient, criterion for being a holder of entitlements of justice. Taking it as a premise that all living beings are morally considerable, the chapter proposes that a grounded justification for interspecies justice in terms of just biological conservation requires an additional four-step argumentative process as a method for including all wild living nonhuman beings in the community of justice. It claims that humans and wild nonhuman living beings constitute a community of justice which can be called a community of fate. Because moral considerability alone is not able to ground the more specific claim that duties of justice are owed to a certain entity, the theoretical move towards grounding a community of justice is a crucial feature of accounts of ecological justice.

Open access
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This chapter examines ecological space as a suitable currency of distributive justice by analysing a range of different definitions of the concept. Ecological space is originally defined as comprising 'all the environmental goods and natural resources that play a part in the socio-economic life of humankind'. The chapter surveys how the concept of ecological space has been used in environmental political theory and how it relates to similar concepts. Based on this, it is possible to propose that green theories of justice should understand ecological space as the (potential) benefits provided by the Earth's life-support systems and physical resources such as land, and non-renewable and renewable natural resources. The chapter then explains why this is an appropriate distribuendum for green theories of justice and indicates how such an understanding of ecological space might be operationalised in order to assess real world distribution problems.

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This chapter focuses on developing principles of distributive justice — not only looking at ecological justice but also proposing complementary principles of environmental justice. In the context of a multitude of environmental crises and in regard to considerations about distributive justice in particular, it has become apparent that the circumstance of scarcity plays an important role for the articulation of appropriate principles of justice. Based on the assumption that ecological space is (to a degree) finite, considering different scarcity scenarios becomes highly relevant in order for considerations of distributive justice to be able to make recommendations for a world shaped by scarcity, which in turn is where distributive justice becomes most salient. The chapter begins by considering the character of scarcity of ecological space and then turns to the demands of environmental and ecological justice in moderate scarcity scenarios. Based on this, it introduces a grid of different principles of justice that follow from different, more demanding, scarcity scenarios. Finally, the chapter sketches some of the theoretical space surrounding this distributive justice framework by highlighting, among other things, its links with environmental virtue ethics.

Open access
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This chapter presents an alternative theoretical framework for grounding ecological justice: the capabilities approach. Rather than focusing on the distribution of some material goods themselves, the focus of the capabilities approach lies on the functionings — that is, doings and beings — and the capabilities — that is, opportunities or freedoms to achieve these functionings — of humans. The provision of these capabilities, which require different inputs depending on the individual in question, are at the heart of its concern. In other words, capability theorists are concerned with the opportunities that individuals need to live fully functioning — or flourishing — lives. On first examination, the capabilities approach has a lot of intuitive force in the domain of ecological justice, arguably because of its close connection to the concepts of needs and flourishing. However, accounts of interspecies justice based on the capabilities approach have been met with powerful criticism which leads to the conclusion that the project of expanding the capabilities approach into the nonhuman sphere will require considerable adjustments, and consequently the task of developing interspecies justice should rather be left to less anthropomorphist approaches.

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This chapter investigates whether biodiversity loss is an injustice. Even though there is a fairly widely shared belief by conservation biologists and environmental ethicists that species extinctions are morally wrong, this intuition has usually not been framed in terms of justice. The chapter then looks at biodiversity loss from the harm avoidance perspective, exploring whether the harm of human-caused species extinctions can be considered an injustice (if it constitutes a harm at all) and not merely something that is morally lamentable or even morally neutral. It argues that rather than constituting an injustice in itself, biodiversity loss should be understood as an indicator for past injustices. Thus, it is the outcome of injustice rather than injustice itself which explains how the current extinction crisis embodies an injustice.

Open access
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This chapter provides an overview of ecological justice. Although the term ecological justice suggests that its focus lies on holistic systems rather than individuals, its scholarly discussions range from justice to individuals to justice to broader systems. The term 'interspecies justice' might imply a bidirectional justice relationship, but the book argues that it also should be seen to only focus on humans doing, or failing to do, justice to nonhuman beings; more accurately, individual nonhumans (and potentially also as groups) instead of attributing justice entitlements to species themselves. Even though the term ecological justice (sometimes referred to as ecojustice) has received slightly more attention than interspecies justice, the latter more accurately describes the author's relational and global understanding of the justice relationship between humans and nonhumans. In a nutshell, what is sought is an account of global distributive ecological justice to 'wild' living nonhuman beings.

Open access
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This chapter discusses political non-ranking biocentrism, the most defensible account of such sort in the context of justice. For this, the political constitutes a qualification and non-ranking is a specification of the biocentric focus. The chapter begins by explaining the political approach to biocentrism. It then turns to how the author understands biocentrism more generally. This is by no means a defence or full description of biocentrism, but the elaboration on a few grounding premises. Finally, the chapter explains why a non-ranking version of biocentrism that does not construct a hierarchy of moral significance is the most convincing account of such sort and considers what implications such a political non-ranking biocentrism has for theorising about justice.

Open access
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This chapter outlines an implication that a commitment to ecological justice has for theorising environmental justice. One necessary, but not sufficient, criterium for achieving compatibility between the author's framework of ecological justice and theories of social justice between humans is that theories of justice must be based on the premise that the Earth is originally unowned. Thus, the chapter develops a critique of the notion of humanity's original ownership of the Earth that has been influential throughout the history of political thought. The critique of this notion can be seen as an extension of the critical investigation of some environmental ethicists on the relationship between ownership and animals, as well as contributing to a necessary 'denaturalisation' of assumptions within political thought that 'Otherise' the nonhuman. Attributing original ownership of the Earth to humans only creates a similar problematic power asymmetry between agents that matter and objects that cannot own and can potentially even be owned. Such philosophical theories exhibit a form of theoretical exclusion of an Other, which is nonhuman living beings in this case. The problem is that such perspectives exclude nonhumans from mattering in theory which can then translate into not mattering in practice.

Open access
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This chapter evaluates the debate on just conservation that has developed around the so-called Half-Earth proposal. The Half-Earth proposal was put forward most prominently to a non-expert audience by biologist Edward O. Wilson. Its central idea can be found in earlier work that observed that an average of 50 per cent of every region needs to be protected to conserve biodiversity, which is meant as a partial solution to the current mass extinction event on Earth. It is suggested that this crisis can be mitigated somewhat by 'setting aside' half of the Earth's land and half of sea spaces for nonhuman living beings. Based on the framework developed in the previous chapters, this chapter argues that the Half-Earth proposal can constitute a distributively just compromise between demands of ecological and environmental justice on the question of distribution of space in terms of habitat, but only if several conditions are fulfilled. Moreover, whether it can even constitute an all-things-considered demand of justice is, in turn, again dependent on a range of further considerations. In the end, the aim is not to have merely effective, but also just conservation practices.

Open access