Abstract

The politics of natural resource access, control and exploitation assume fundamental relations of social power; they imply them and consolidate them. Environmental issues reflect broader patterns of domination and social exclusion at work in global politics which enable us to understand who benefits from the current distribution of environmental benefits and which social groups shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden of pollution. The task, however, is not merely to identify those global structures that produce environmental inequities and injustices, but to show how, in some cases, those structures are supported and entrenched by the institutional configurations that we continue to assume are generating the solutions to environmental degradation. Towards this end, I connect debates about the global managerial class and critiques of the prevailing sustainable development historical bloc with more localized studies of the consequences of organized inequality and the strategies adopted by marginalized groups to contest their fate as victims of environmental injustice. Such an approach builds upon the project which Marian Miller began with her enquiries into the Third World in global environmental politics, emphasizing the importance of the global political economy in shaping those political relations. Political and social cleavages of race, class and gender are shown to be key to understanding the global organization of environmental inequality and justice, though it is the neglect of the first two dimensions, in particular, that forms the core concern of this paper. Their importance in understanding patterns of causation (distribution of benefit), process (access, voice, representation) and distribution (of harm) is highlighted through reference to a range of contemporary case studies in the global North and South.

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