The concept of ecojustice has at least two different usages among environmentalists. The first refers to a general set of attitudes about justice and the environment at the center of which is dissatisfaction with traditional theories of justice. With few exceptions (notably a degree of concern about excessive cruelty to animals), anthropocentric and egocentric Western moral and ethical systems have been unconcerned with individual plants and animals, species , oceans, wilderness areas, and other parts of the biosphere , except as they may be used by humans. In general, that which is non-human is viewed mainly as raw material for human uses, largely or completely without moral standing.
Relying upon holistic principles of biocentrism and deep ecology , the "ecojustice" alternative suggests that the value of non-human life-forms is independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes. Antecedents of this view can be found in sources as diverse as Eastern philosophy, Aldo Leopold's "land ethic," Albert Schweitzer's "reverence for life," and Martin Heidegger's injunction to "let beings be." The central idea of ecojustice is that the categories of ethical and moral reflection relevant to justice should be expanded to encompass nature itself and its constituent parts, and human beings have an obligation to take the inherent value of other living things into consideration whenever these living things are affected by human actions.
Some advocates of an ecojustice perspective base standards of just treatment on the evident capacity of many life-forms to experience pain. Others assert the equal inherent worth of all individual life-forms. More typically, environmental ethicists assert that all life-forms have at least some inherent worth, and thus deserve moral consideration, although perhaps not the same worth. The practical goals associated with ecojustice include the fostering of stability and diversity within and between self-sustaining ecosystems, harmony and balance in nature and within competitive biological systems, and sustainable development .
Ecojustice can also refer simply to the linking of environmental concerns with various social justice issues. The advocate of ecojustice typically strives to understand how the logic of a given economic system results in certain groups or classes of people bearing the brunt of environmental degradation . This entails, for example, concern with the frequent location of polluting industries and hazardous waste dumps near the economically disadvantaged (i.e., those with the least mobility and fewest resources to resist).
In much the same way, ecojustice also involves the fostering of sustainable development in less-developed areas of the globe, so that economic development does not mean the export of polluting industries and other environmental problems to these less-developed areas. An additional point of concern is the allocation of costs and benefits in environmental reclamation and preservation—for example, the preservation of Amazonian rain forests affects the global environment and may benefit the whole world, but the costs of this preservation fall disproportionately upon Brazil and the other countries of the region. An advocate of ecojustice would be concerned that the various costs and benefits of development be apportioned fairly.
[Lawrence J. Biskowski ]
Miller, A. S. Gaia Connections. Savage, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1991.