Politics of the Environment (ESS 112) - University of the ...

Politics of the Environment (ESS 112) - University of the ...

Politics of the Environment (ESS 112) Lecture 2: Environmental Sustainability as a policy issue Is there a need today for a policy shift towards environmental sustainability? The Earths surface temperature Summer in winter? Is the current warm weather period in Cape Town and other parts of South Africa an indication of global warming?

Worldwide Growth 1960-2000 Ecological Footprint: Do we fit on the planet? The worlds ecological footprint Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year. Moderate UN scenarios suggest that if current population and consumption trends continue, by the 2030s, we will need the equivalent of

two Earths to support us. And of course, we only have one. My personal Ecological Footprint (1) My personal Ecological Footprint (2) How big is your Ecological Footprint? Go to the following website to calculate your own footprint: http://www.footprintnetwork.org

Glossary of most important terms (1) Anthropocentrism: A way of thinking that regards humans as the source of all value and is predominantly concerned with human interests Biodiversity: The number, variety and variability of living organisms; sometimes refers to the total variety of life on Earth Climate change: Any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or to human activity Deep ecology: The pre-eminent radical economic moral theory which has the primary aim of preserving nature from human interference Ecocentrism: A mode of thought that regards humans as subject to ecological and systems laws and whose ethical,

political and social prescriptions are concerned with both humans and non-humans Ecological footprint: A measure of the amount of nature it takes to sustain a given population over the course of a year Ecologism: A distinctive green political ideology encompassing those perspectives that hold that a sustainable society requires radical changes in our relationship with the non-human natural world and our mode of economic, social and political life Glossary of most important terms (2) Genetically modified organism: New organisms created by human manipulation of genetic information and material Green consumerism: The use of environmental and ethical criteria in choosing whether or not to purchase a product or service

Holism: The view that wholes are more than just the sum of their parts, and that wholes cannot be defined merely as a collection of their basic constituents Intrinsic value: The value which something has, independently of anyone finding it valuable Limits to growth: The belief that the planet imposes natural limits on economic and population growth. Modern environmentalism: The emergence, from the late 1960s, of growing public concern about the state of the planet, new political ideas about the environment and a mass political movement. Ozone depletion: Depletion of ozone in the Earths upper atmosphere which leaves the surface of the Earth vulnerable to harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Glossary of most important terms (3) Postmaterialism: The theory that, as material affluence spreads, quality of life issues and concerns tend to replace material ones, fundamentally changing the political culture and value of industrialised countries. Precautionary principle: The principle states that the lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing measures to

prevent environmental degradation. Regime: The principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures which form the basis of co-operation on a particular issue in international relations. Regulation: Any direct (command-and-control) attempt by the government to influence the behaviour of businesses or citizens by setting environmental standards (e.g. for air quality) enforced via legislation. Renewable energy: Energy sources, such as wind, sun, geothermal and hydroelectric, that never run out. Sustainable development: The ability of the present generation to meet its needs without undermining the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Technocentric: A mode of thought which optimistically believes that society can solve all environmental problems, using technology and science, and achieve unlimited material growth.

Are the causes for environmental degradation political? LaFerrire and Stoett argue that the causes for environmental degradation are mostly political. And the consequences of natural disasters are always of a political dimension: The attack on nature is symptomatic of a commitment to material growth and state power, which requires the systematic control and use of human and nonhuman nature. The roots of this social project can be traced back to the momentous intellectual and political developments of the seventeenth century, where Newtonian science and the nation-state arose as twin pillars of modernity. With the development of capitalism, contract theories effectively abolished the organic character of communities, leaving the presumably self-interested individual to survive in a competitive world. Contemporary ideologies of growth and power and, in popular parlance, prevailing of conceptions of sustainable development have harnessed the forces of science and technology to create large markets for

high value-added goods. In the process, natural resources have been mined at staggering levels, with often disastrous ecological consequences and violations of basic human rights. In general, the state has continuously perpetrated the ideology of control necessary for this process, though it has also acted to mitigate some of the environmental excesses that result from it. There have been substantial intellectual challenges to the hegemony of this ideology as well, though we should avoid the error of categorizing all forms of environmentalist thought as anti- or postmodern. (Eric LaFerrire and Peter J. Stoett, International Relations Theory and Ecological Thought: Towards a Synthesis, Synthesis, (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 3f.) Politics and the environment (1) The environment has been on the political agenda since the late 1960s. Much has happened in that time, but is the

planet better off? If one calculates the ecological footprint of the current world population, things are bad and getting worse The global ecological footprint of humanity is a measure of the amount of nature it takes to sustain a given population over the course of a year. Politics and the environment (2) Because of more and more visible signs of environmental degradation (e.g. dying forests in Northern Europe because of acid rain) and environmental disasters like the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in April 1986, environmental

awareness has risen among the populations and governments of countries Millions of people joined environmental groups, signed petitions and marched on demonstrations The environmental lobby has become an important actor in national and international politics Politics and the environment (3) However, entrenched business interests and technocratic elites continue to exercise far greater influence over most key political decisions Governments everywhere have introduced a wide range of environmental protection policies and regulations, and most countries are formally committed to the principles of sustainable development.

But priority is still almost always given to economic growth over environmental protection There are international efforts of co-operation to address global environmental problems like climate change (e.g. the Kyoto Protocol) Thus, there is no doubt that environmental issues have had a big impact on contemporary politics. But still governments often adopt a business-as-usual response to environmental problems. So has there really changed anything yet? The three core components of environmental politics Environmental politics is a wide-ranging subject with three core components: 1. the study of political theories and ideas

relating to the environment 2. the examination of political parties and environmental movements 3. the analysis of public policymaking and implementation affecting the environment at international, national and local levels Important questions in environmental politics Should environmental activists try to (substantially) reform the capitalist system by getting elected to parliament, or should they try to radically change the system? Is collective action (through green parties and pressure groups) or individual action (by

changing lifestyles and green consumerism) more effective? The environment as a policy problem What does policy in politics mean? Policy is an explicit, purposive plan of action which includes a design of expectations, interests and goals and the measures taken to execute these designs in response to a situation. The environment as a policy problem (2) Key issues:

What are the core characteristics of environmental problems? Where does power lie in environmental policymaking? What are the structural and institutional barriers to policy change? Why does policy change? Core characteristics of the environment as a policy problem (1) 1. Public goods many environmental resources are public goods

for policymakers it is therefore difficult to make laws that protect public goods or to prevent harm like pollution public goods: each individuals consumption leads to no subtraction from any other individuals consumption of that good (e.g. clean air) in short: public goods are for everyone, and nobody has the

right to own them there is the problem of collective action this has also consequences for the use of common resources, as illustrated in The Tragedy of the Commons Core characteristics of the environment as a policy problem (2) 2. Transboundary problems problems of the global commons are frequently transboundary climate change, ozone depletion and

marine pollution do not respect national borders global environmental problems require concerted action by the international community Core characteristics of the environment as a policy problem (3) 3. Complexity and uncertainty policymaking can be hampered by the complexity and uncertainty that characterise many environmental problems

e.g.: Is the climate changing? Are humans responsible? What are the impacts? How can the effects be avoided/mitigated? What policies are necessary? many issues are also complex and interconnected, therefore policymakers cannot just deal with one part of the problem but often need to set up broader policies different views and interests of policymakers, lobbyists and scientists make solutions even more

difficult Core characteristics of the environment as a policy problem (4) 4. Irreversibility The problem of uncertainty is exacerbated by the irreversibility of many environmental problems Irreversibility places great pressure on policymakers to get it right, because there might not be a second try to get a wrong policy right to avoid irreversible damage Core characteristics of the

environment as a policy problem (5) 5. Temporal and spatial variability Many environmental issues are complicated by the fact that their impact will be long-term, whereas remedial policies need to be adopted before the full negative effects of a problem are felt. But it is easier to make policy that responds to todays political pressures than to tomorrows environmental problems. Spatial and temporal variability mean that the costs of environmental problems, and their solutions, are unevenly distributed.

Core characteristics of the environment as a policy problem (6) 6. Administrative fragmentation The administrative structure of government is usually divided into distinct policy sectors with specific responsibilities (e.g. education, defence). Core ministries concerned with economic matters (e.g. finance, industry, agriculture) make policy decisions that have negative consequences for the environment. On the other hand, many environmental problems

are cross-sectoral and require co-ordinated responses that overcome sectoral boundaries Core characteristics of the environment as a policy problem (7) 7. Regulatory intervention Environmental damage is often a by-product of otherwise legitimate activities as a consequence, governments may have to intervene in the economy and society to regulate these damaging activities Regulatory intervention can involve a mix of policy instruments, not just legal instruments

e.g. setting factory emission standards or encouraging the recycling of paper The traditional policy paradigm

A policy paradigm provides policymakers with the terminology and a set of taken-for-granted assumptions about the way they communicate and think about a policy area The traditional paradigm that emerged during the 1970s treated the environment like any other new policy area, rather than recognising the interdependency of the relationships between ecosystems and political, economic, social and cultural systems but this means that policymakers were not able to deal with environmental problems adequately The weaknesses in the traditional paradigm have become increasingly apparent to policy elites. But despite the emergence of the alternative paradigm of

sustainable development, the traditional paradigm has proved very resistant to change Economic growth still top priority? Political obstacles to change Special interests of different groups The institutional structure of the state and government Sectoral divisions within government (and the bureaucracy) The power of producers and businesses

The technocentric commitment of policymakers to economic expansion encourages them to define the interests of the state as largely synonymous with those of producers. Often interests of producer groups trump those of environmental groups. Therefore economic growth takes priority over environmental protection . Is industry the main villain in environmental policy? Does the capitalist state present insuperable barriers to a co-ordinated environmental policy?

Achieving policy change Despite the powerful structural and institutional factors reinforcing the traditional environmental policy paradigm, policy change is not impossible In recent years, all governments have introduced new measures to improve environmental protection However, there is not much evidence of radical changes

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