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Sachs, Wolfgang
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Wuppertal Papers No. 137
Globalization has a credible future only if the borderless economy does notoverstretch the resilience of the biosphere and frustrate demands for greater justicein the world. But what means environmental justice in a transnational context. In general, justice may have three different senses: justice as fairness, justice asequitable distribution, and justice as human dignity. In the first it is a question oforganized procedures for the allocation of advantages and disadvantages that arefair to everyone involved; this is the procedural conception of justice. In thesecond it is a question of proportionate distribution of goods and rights among individuals or groups; this is the relational conception of justice. And in the third it is a question of the minimum goods or rights necessary for a dignifiedexistence; this is the absolute or substantive conception of justice. This paper develops the theme of international environmental justice in the third sense, as a human rights issue. First, it outlines six typical situations in which patterns ofresource use come into conflict with subsistence rights: namely, extraction of raw materials, alteration of ecosystems, reprogramming of organisms, destabilizationas a result of climate change, pollution of urban living space, and effects of resource prices. It then introduces the debate on human rights and locates respectfor subsistence rights as a component of economic, social and cultural humanrights. Finally, it offers some markers for an environmental policy geared tohuman rights, the aim of which is to guarantee civil rights for all in a world with afinite biosphere. Neither power play between states nor economic competition, but the realization of human rights and respect for the biosphere, should be thedefining feature of the emergent world society.
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