An extended summary of a presentation I will be giving during an Earth Day Colloquium on April 15th, at the University of Western Ontario -
Since the 1960s, Social Ecology analysis has critiqued a wide range of social inequities, a series of interrelated institutions (including government systems), as well as various environmental problems. By the 1980s, Environmental Justice research and social movement activities were raising some similar points about how environmental problems can be connected with social inequality. In this presentation I will compare Social Ecology and Environmental Justice approaches to highlight their commonalities and differences. My discussion of Social Ecology basically will consist of points about the foundations laid out in Murray Bookchin’s works. As I address Environmental Justice discourse, I will focus on its more typical forms, over its initial two decades. Although Social Ecology also has emphasized questions about social inequality, these two perspectives very rarely have been compared. I will touch on the distinct histories of these discourses as I discuss their concepts, priorities, and claims. The environmentalism from proponents of Environmental Justice has been more consistent and focused, across the series of local cases which have received attention. Conversely, Social Ecology has covered a wider range of topics, with far more historical and theoretical analysis. While there appears to be no significant historical cross-fertilization connecting the two approaches, commonalities are apparent, nevertheless. In addition to their shared emphases on social inequality, Environmental Justice and Social Ecology discourses both call for social change that may be beneficial to human beings. However, Environmental Justice reforms (such as calls for “green jobs”) would be deemed to be inadequate, based on the bolder standards of Social Ecology.
That summary had to be shortened before I submitted it as a presentation proposal. I was over the word limit.
The wording also takes into account the context — which has a lot of commonalities with a context where I gave a recent presentation about environmental justice at the campus. More than anything, what I’m getting at right now is that the presentation won’t advocate for aspects of the Social Ecology and Environmental Justice approaches in the way that I would if I were just bluntly giving my personal point of view. This event won’t be a place for that sort of presentation.