Organic dumping

Read inégalités environnementales
German Ulrich Beck claimed 30 years ago that environmental destruction is democratic in that it affects us all equally. In a new book, this claim is heavily criticized.

The German sociologist Ulrich Beck claimed in his most famous book Risikogesellschaft (1986), published in English as the Risk Society in 1992, that while material goods are distributed as a result of power and economy, pollution is democratic; it hits everyone equally. This is the starting point for four critical chapters written by French academics on how environmental damage affects people differently. With a past at the Center for Development and the Environment at UiO in the 90 century, where we discussed ecology, economics and philosophy with sizes like Arne Næs, Harold Wilhite and Nina Witoszek, this 30 year old starting point for a book on the environmental impact of various land, something banal. But it is possible the debate has only come further in Norway than in France.

Nothing new. Anyway, the retired philosophy professor from Sorbonne Catherine Larrère recently published a small (104 page) book, Les inégalités environnementales, "The Environment as Inequality Factor", at the prestigious Presse Universitaires de France (PUF). Larrère, who himself contributed one of four chapters, has participated in the international environmental debate for a lifetime, and is clearly frustrated that the environment is not included as a natural variable in economic and social societal analyzes. Economists ignore the environment in their social analyzes, she argues, while the economists ignore that the consequences are quite different for the rich and poor of a degraded environment and different types of pollution. Yet she certainly does not want the environment and pollution included in the analyzes, as Lawrence Summer, the former chief economist at the World Bank did in 1991. Then, Summer argued for the profitability of moving the polluting industry to poor countries, because poor lives have lower economic value than riches. .
In a neoliberal world where New Public Management prevails, it is better to pollute in the poor than in rich countries, because the latter can pay to escape. Larrère uses the term "ecological dumping" about such processes. Although the richest billion people in the world today account for more than half of the world's pollution, it is the poor who are both most exposed and vulnerable in the deteriorating environment. So far, nothing new.

Conflicts. The chapter by Laura Centemeri and Gildas Renou provides a review of the research of Catalan economist Joan Martínez Alier, known for her studies of resource conflicts. His most famous work, The Environmentalism of the Poor. A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation, was published in English in 2002, but did not appear in French until 2014. The contribution to Centemeri and Renou therefore also feels somewhat uninspired. Martínez Alier was also the initiator of a good and updated environmental conflict atlas available at
Eloi Laurent, a French economist employed by Stanford University, devotes his chapter to various environmental disadvantages for the poor and rich in France. He is most concerned that the cheap quarters in the big cities where the poor live have more noise and air pollution than the rich districts in the same cities, and that this leads to a significantly shorter average life expectancy for the poor. It seems to have followed a bit in recent decades' reports about Oslo as a divided city so that such information should come as no surprise.

The former chief economist at the World Bank argued in 1991 for the profitability of moving the polluting industry to poor countries, because the lives of poor people have lower economic value than riches.

Cognitive dissonance. The last part of the book is the best. Urbanist Cyria Emelianoff, who has been studying different sustainable cities around the world for 20 years, explains to us how planners reinforce the environmental inequalities in cities, and how the rich can buy areas where environmental damage is least. She talks about gated communities that include both rivers and nature reserves; she problematizes the rich jetsetters who want so strongly back to nature and puts so much pressure on the nature properties that those who actually already live there cannot afford to stay. She analyzes the eco-trends of the rich world (vegetarianism / veganism, urban food cultivation, use of natural remedies, electric bicycle) as a reaction to the cognitive dissonance many of us experience, knowing that our consumption, where car use and flights are as natural as eating mangoes from Pakistan and beans from Kenya are not really compatible with the desire for a sustainable environment. The little we do for a better environmental world is vanishingly small. But, as Emelianoff a bit resignedly affirms: Most individuals are good at using the arguments they can live well with, thus masking some of the environmental problems for those who are actually environmentalists. Without acting morally, Emelianoff reminds us that it is not attitude but action that can save the environment, both locally, nationally and globally.

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