Environment and Climate Change
Environmental Justice, Rights, and Politics
Research Leader, Professor David Schlosberg
While the focus on human and non-human is crucial for exploring the changing relations and practices in the relationship between people and the rest of the natural world, the goal of this research programme is to investigate the specific territories and discourses of rights, justice, and democracy in the political management of human immersion in the environment that sustains us. Increasingly, the classic political language of rights is being extended into environmental rights – the right to live in an environment that can support life, and the right to particular aspects of the natural world such as water, air, and food that provide for sustenance and functioning. In addition, environmental and climate justice are increasingly being used to explore the ethical implications of the distribution of environmental goods and bads, the invisibility of peoples and communities exposed to risk and vulnerability, and the absence of democratic control over the spaces of everyday life. And a large focus in rethinking our governance of environment is in more inclusive and discursive forms of environmental democracy. Given growing evidence that an increasingly climate-changed environment has the potential to undermine basic citizens’ rights to life, health, subsistence, autonomy, development and culture, growing numbers of political theorists and environmental ethicists are making this connection, insisting that people have the human right not to suffer from the disadvantages generated by global changes within the biosphere. These concerns are, in turn, being used to argue for new normative bases of environmental and climate policies – in particular policies based on democratic participation. But these concerns are not simply academic attempts to make connections between environmental conditions and political concepts – they are driven by the discourses and demands of grassroots movements. From urban food deserts in the US, to uranium exposed indigenous peoples in Australia, to the climate vulnerable along many coasts and island states, movements are making these same connections. This research programme will explore the relationship between these theoretical ideas of justice and rights, along with their links to potential public policies and the discourses, demands, and alternative practices of movements. From this perspective, environment, democracy and human rights are inextricably linked – not only in theory, but also between theory and policy, and between both and environmental and social movements. Initially, this work will focus on an ARC-funded project on climate justice and community responses to climate adaptation in Australia, but numerous projects at the interface of rights, justice, democracy, and the environment will be explored.
- Watch an interview with David Schlosberg talking about Climate Justice, conducted by Simon J Forbes, Global Studio (2012)
- Read an interview by PEI News: Bridging the Concerns between Climate Change and Climate Justice (2009)