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Environmental Ethics

Volume 26, Issue 3, Fall 2004

Derek Bell
Pages 287-306
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics200426317

Environmental Justice and Rawls’ Difference Principle

It is widely acknowledged that low-income and minority communities in liberal democratic societies suffer a disproportionate burden of environmental hazards. Is “environmental injustice” a necessary feature of liberal societies or is its prevalence due to the failure of existing liberal democracies to live up to liberal principles of justice? One leading version of liberalism, John Rawls’ “justice as fairness,” can be “extended” to accommodate the concerns expressed by advocates of environmental justice. Moreover, Rawlsian environmental justice has some significant advantages over existing conceptions of environmental justice.

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