Analyse & Kritik 28 (2):206-222 (2006)

Liberalism and ecologism are widely regarded as incompatible. Liberalism and environmentalism might be compatible but liberalism and ecologism are not. A liberal state cannot promote policies for ecological or ecocentric reasons. An individual cannot be both a liberal and a committed advocate of ecologism. This paper challenges these claims. It is argued that Rawls’s ‘political liberalism’ is compatible with ecologism and, in particular, the idea of ‘ecological justice’. A Rawlsian state can promote ecological justice. A committed political liberal can also be a committed advocate of ecological justice. The argument is developed through a close textual examination of Rawls’s brief discussion of our duties to ‘animals and the rest of nature’. Rawls leaves far more scope for liberal ecologism than his critics have suggested. The proposed version of liberal ecologism is defended against charges of substantive and procedural bias toward humans and against nonhuman nature. Liberal ecologism may not be enough for some ecologists—especially ‘ecological constitutionalists’ seeking constitutional protection for nonhuman nature—but it is a serious and defensible political and moral theory
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DOI 10.1515/auk-2006-0206
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