Articles like Gottschlich’s and Bellina’s prove that if human societies are generally failing in anything, it is in assertively taking care of the environment. Both present a critical contribution to environmental sustainability that I summarize, according to their segments, in four branches.
· Environmental justice Approach
According to the authors the first thing we need to do is to change how humans relate with humans and then with nature (Human -> Human -> Nature) this whole relation has oppression as its main characteristic along with exploitation, I suggest. Since inequity is inertly present in humans’ relations because of the poor distribution of environmental burdens and benefits, the relation is oppressive per se, thus, if the relation is inequitable, it implies two things I would like to highlight: Humans exploit other humans and then exploiter and exploited exploit nature. To acknowledge this, will be Neil Armstrong’s step to improve environmental sustainability as it is conceived today.
Then, authors invite the reader to re-think environment definition, to change the perception that environment is everything that is not human or human-made to the concept that englobes environment as the place where we live, work, play, worship, and go to school. Thus, we can include environment not only as the typical country-side where agriculture is practiced, but also to our houses, big buildings in the cities’ centres and so on. If we take care of our home, why wouldn’t we take care of environment as a whole?
Following the above, authors connect environmental sustainability with human rights, stating that un-sustainable practices on the environment not only affect nature but as a related consequence they affect humans in general but more deeply they affect vulnerable groups such as poor, women and indigenous groups. As a matter of fact, in what it’s conceived as Global South, the most vulnerable person is a woman, she’s brown or black skinned, belongs to an indigenous group and is positioned in the lowest economic decile.
Concluding this point and connecting it with the next one, authors propose the need to expand justice in its conception, but how?
· The Expansion of justice
Following the last concept, the first step that is to be taken to expand the conception of justice is to acknowledge differences between social groups. Characteristics such as race and class divide people in social groups that are different from each other. This creates inequalities within society that varies from open disrespect between social groups, up to institutionalized exclusion from rights. Without this recognition, fair distribution is not possible as democratic participation might be legally possible but unavailable for the lowest deciles of the societies.
The expansion of justice, therefore, should seek for equity rather than equality as not every group’s needs are the same because not every group’s capabilities are the same. At the end, justice’s final purpose is to help groups to develop the capabilities needed to achieve what they particularly conceive as a good life.
· Feminist approach
Feminism shares critical approach with Marxism; the feminist approach critics how policies are developed and questions how development and growth impact on poor groups, specifically women groups. This branch of the text is linked to the last two, understanding that the relation between men and women is vertical rather than horizontal, and that it is characterized by inequality. It analyses the roots of these inequalities and shows that the problem is structural in society and ramifies in specific problems such as poverty and ecological destruction, both independent from other categories of oppression, exploitation and abuse.
One of the biggest problems feminist approach address is the need to recognize and reward the significance of the unpaid care work, work that is generally done by women who are not receiving any kind of benefit for doing it, and worst, not to do it might bring negative social consequences as society itself expects women to do this kind of work. To take care of the elderly, take care of the children, do the household work and so on and so on. This dynamic is well symbolized with an iceberg where the market economy is visible above water, but the rest of these care labour is under it, holding the whole, not recognized, unpaid, and essential.
Redefine absurd capitalist needs of production, productivity and reproduction is key factor in the making of an assertively environmental sustainability. It is a must to understand that genders are not equal, that both have different needs and different capabilities, and that’s how the authors introduce the concept of care.
Care, rather than economy, should be centre of democratic political life, as it should be the structure were progressive politics relay on. Why? Well, care importance is directly or indirectly explained all trough this text, nevertheless, it also offers opportunities for dealing with numerous crisis, may these be social, ecological and economic when this last one is redefined. It switches the rationalization of maximizing short-term benefits and political interest that are often (if not always) partial, and act on detriment of the nature’s preservation and it contributes to the unfair distribution of burdens and benefits among social groups and classes. It highlights inequalities among deciles.
Economy and politics should be based on caring, structured by reversibility, thoughtfully acts, and by a long, transparent time-space frame that anticipates consequences of production. Care, when questioning democracy, leaves the concept of “caring for” and adopts a new one of “caring with” helping to make asymmetrical relations more equal, looking for equity rather than equality. It helps to erase assistentialism to create solutions that assertively attack problems from the structure.
Following the above described, according to the authors, enables a more precise analysis on environmental sustainability and therefore, makes this a more precise way of take care of our environment
Gottschlich, Daniela & Bellina, Leonie. (2016). Environmental justice and care: critical emancipatory contributions to sustainability discourse. Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht, 34, 941–953.