Original Papers

Should justice for people come before justice for the environment? Engaging students in debates about environmental justice.


This paper outlines the main differences between ecocentric and anthropocentric positions in regard to justice, exploring university students’ perceptions of the concepts of social and ecological justice and reflecting on how values assigned to humans and the environment are balanced and contested. Putting justice for people before the environment is based on evidence that biological conservation can disadvantage local communities; the idea that the very notion of justice is framed by humans and therefore remains a human issue; and the assumption that humans have a higher value than other species. Putting justice for the environment first assumes that only an ecocentric ethic guarantees protection of all species, including humans, and therefore ecological justice already guarantees social justice. This research shows that many students emphasize the convergence of social and ecological justice where human and environmental interests correspond. While not wishing to diminish the underlying assumptions of either ethical orientation, the common “enemy” of both vulnerable communities and nonhuman nature, as identified by students, is an ideology of economic growth and industrial development.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13135/2384-8677/2688


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