In the US, environmental justice (EJ) is not just researched and discussed, but since the 1990s the focus of preventive activities, where procedures for consensual decisions and socially acceptable distributions of environmental "bads" have been tested.
Practical-political implementation of EJ needs at least
- criteria for distributional justice, to assess if specific regions and social groups have a "fair share" of environmental "bads"
- criteria for procedural justice, to secure that people affected by severe environmental changes may adequately participate in planning and decision-making ("fair treatment").
Such criteria may be relevant in Germany, too, for planning and decision-making (eg., consideration of socioeconomic characteristics of the population at the planned site in planning approvals) and procedural norms (e.g., information and participation rights of the population affected by severe environmental changes).
Until now, EJ is mostly ignored in Germany, for the following reasons:
- social differences ("social gradients") in regard to environmental hazards are accepted as "natural"
- the placement of locally un-wanted or hazardous installations (transmitting stations, wind-farms, nuclear power plants, etc.) is mostly made a problem by high status groups
- the socio-spatial separation (residentail segregation) of the population is still small in comparison to the USA
- a smaller volume of environmental pollution
- owing to spatial narrowness, separation and concentration of environmental hazards is less feasible
- some measures - high smoke stacks, local waste disposal, etc. - equalize environmental burdens, even if EJ specific objectives are missing
- the debate is dominated by the classical environmental problem (risks for man and environment), with corresponding evaluation and prevention conflicts
- the existing, socially discriminating distribution of environmental bads is not related to color of skin, but rather social status and nationality
- the socio-spatial distribution of environmental bads - with corresponding distributional and procedural conflicts - becomes a subject only in rare cases (e.g., Gorleben, airport Frankfurt/M., "Bombodrom", Horno)
- with growing social disparity and and residential segregation, a socially discriminating distribution of environmental bads becomes more probable and visible.
Outside the US, the response to EJ is heterogeneous. In developing countries, environmental problems have for a long time been seen as a consequence of poverty and political discrimination, often without ethnical/racial discrimination, as usually implied in the US. Then, other present problems may be subsumed under EJ in a wider sense (environmentalism of the poor) - e.g., conflicts in Latin America, Southeast Asia, or Eastern Europe.
Accordingly, EJ has repeatedly been the topic of conferences outside the US in recent years - e.g., in Australia (1997), Mexico (2000), South Africa (2001, 2002), Kenia (2002), Cuba (2003) -, often in connection with globalization, sustainability, Agenda 21, etc. In Europe, EJ also increasingly becomes a topic - e.g., in 2003, at conferences in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Spain and United Kingdom.
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