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Environmental Ethics

Volume 35, Issue 4, Winter 2013

Michael Menser
Pages 439-459

The Bioregion and Social Difference
Learning from Iris Young’s Metropolitan Regionalism

One of the most pressing challenges facing environmental philosophers is how to address social and economic inequality while pursuing ecological sustainability. Bioregionalism is a view that is theoretically and practically well-equipped to grapple with the ecological, sociocultural, and economic complexity of the ecological crisis. However, its virtue ethics-oriented communitarianism as well as its spatial understanding of the just human polity render it unable to adequately address the on-the-ground reality of environmental degradation and political injustice as they occur in urban regions. Indeed, legacies of environmental racism and present patterns of social exclusion and economic inequality give good reason to designate multibioregional urban areas as the principal polity. Iris Young’s conception of justice as the “being together of strangers” critically yet sympathetically helps bioregionalism address these problems and that of the proper scale of the polity. The New York City region is a case study.

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