Navigazione – Mappa del sito

HomeNumeri75The Environmental Crisis and Its ...

The Environmental Crisis and Its Injustice. An (Inevitably Short) Introduction

Carlo Burelli e Davide Pala
p. 3-16

Testo integrale

  • 1 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, esp. ch (...)
  • 2 Moellendorf 2015: 173.

1In the last decades, the environmental conditions of our planet have dramatically worsened. Consider that, for instance, due to the enormous increase of human made CO2 emissions (by about 90% since 1970), the planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.5 degrees Celsius since the 19th century, with most of this warming occurring in the last 35 years. As many scientists have noticed, this has hastened the melting of the glaciers and therefore brought about a rise in the sea level; engendered droughts and created or quickened processes of desertification; acidified the oceans; intensified the occurrences of hurricanes; to mention but a few of the most relevant consequences. As a result, the existence of many human beings, as well as non-human animals and vegetable species has been seriously put at risk. In many cases, it has already been destroyed1. This is worrying, clearly, and it becomes even more worrying if one stresses that, in the lack of any significant reduction of CO2 emissions, the temperature is expected to rise between 3.7 and 4.8 or 2.7 and 7.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century2.

  • 3 (accessed: 6 May 2020).
  • 4 UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’, htt (...)

2Unfortunately, this is not the whole story when it comes to the deterioration of the environment. As a matter of fact, it has been pointed out that, again due to human action, forest areas, which are essential to provide oxygen to any living being, have been significantly reduced, falling from 31.6% in 1960 to 30,7% of land areas in 20183 . From another perspective, moreover, it has been estimated that, due to overfishing, over-harvesting, etc., we are losing species at 100 to 1000 times the background rate, i.e., about one to five species per year, with a precipitous decline of biodiversity4.

  • 5 Cf. Santana 2019.
  • 6 Cf. McNeill 2014.

3Now, there is no agreement on when the so-called Anthropocene started: around 1.8 million years ago, when humans started controlling fire; around 10 000 years ago, with the beginning of agriculture; or rather more recently, that is, in 1492 or in 1610. Nor is it clear whether the Anthropocene can be considered a geological era proper5. However, what is sure is that there is an environmental crisis and that such a crisis is going through an unprecedented acceleration, becoming among one of the central issues of political agendas and of public concern6.

4Most people intuitively believe that the state of affairs just outlined is undesirable. Nonetheless, it is far from obvious why it is particularly unjust. Furthermore, remedying the environmental crisis is costly, sometimes severely so. Thus, we need an account of who, precisely, ought to pay such costs, as well as to what extent. For example, many think that the burden to tackle the environmental crisis should not fall on developing societies because they have a right to develop. In this sense, their population’s right to live a minimally decent life would trump their obligation to preserve the environment. Similarly, it is not clear to what degree current people’s well-being should be traded off for future people’s well-being. While tomorrow’s uncertainty does require some rationally discounting of its value, it seems wrong to leave future generations in worse conditions than the one we had – or so some argue, as we will show. To address these normative conflicts a philosophical refection and, more specifically, a justice-based perspective, is needed. In particular, we need to dissect the problem at stake, analyse the normative conflicts it raises, and provide reasons to specific actors to do something about it. In the last years, the philosophical literature has indeed started to investigate such questions. Our aim is to provide a very general introduction to the most relevant directions undertaken by the current debate, thus equipping the reader with a conceptual map of the recent state of the art. Needless to say, our remarks will just raise questions rather than providing answers. In the following, we shall focus in particular on the anthropocentrism-critique, the intergenerational justice approach, the governance beyond borders perspective, and the debates surrounding climate change on the one hand, and the loss of biodiversity on the other. For reasons of simplicity, we will treat them separately even if they are clearly intertwined.

  • 7 On the domination of non-human animals and the environment see for ex. Krause 2019.
  • 8 Cf. Garner 2002.
  • 9 Routley R., Routley V. 1980.

5The Anthropocentrism-Critique First, some have claimed that despite the phenomena that constitute what we have called the environmental crisis are deeply different from one another, they all share one problematic feature. That is, they all are the consequence of a mistaken but widespread anthropocentric worldview, which conceives humans as separate from and superior to the rest of nature. As a consequence, animals and natural resources can be employed by human beings as they see fit and, as such, may well be dominated and exploited by them7. This influential perspective can be traced back to the Judeo-Christian Bible, where humans are created in the image of God and are allowed to «subdue» Earth and to «have dominion» over other living creatures. However, critics of anthropocentrism note that this is also a staple assumption of western culture more generally, which can be found in the work of diverse scholars, such as, for instance, Aristotle. Anthropocentric intellectuals generally attribute intrinsic value to human life, but they assign only instrumental value to the natural world, i.e., they deem it valuable only insofar as it can benefit humankind. According to the objectors to anthropocentrism, we should instead acknowledge that non-human animals do have a moral status which is comparable to that of humans, or, if not comparable, worthy of respect nonetheless8. The environment, on the other side, while not having a moral status, might well possess an intrinsic rather the merely instrumental value – we should value it, in other terms, for its own sake, rather than just as a means to pursue further goals. Otherwise, in a hypothetical scenario in which every human disappeared, there would be nothing wrong if the last human being destroyed the environment. And this is highly counter-intuitive according to some9.

6This view, we submit, has the undeniable merit to denounce the lack of robust constraints on human capacity to exploit non-human animals and the environment. For, first, non-human animals possess, quite uncontroversially, a capacity for feeling pain which cannot be dismissed altogether. Second, the environment is arguably much more than a commodity in the hands of humans and as such it should be treated.

  • 10 Moellendorf 2011. Cf. Shue 1993.

7The other side of the coin, however, is that the anthropocentrism-critique risks overlooking important human needs. For example, societies, especially if poor, need to develop in order for them to be able to satisfy – at the least – the basic needs of their population. Nonetheless, this development, even when sustainable, will require a significant amount of exploitation of both non-human animals and the environment10. In other words, burdened societies should be granted a (limited) right to develop even at the cost of some environmental damage. Granted this, the greatest challenge for the approach here in analysis is to show that the countries’ right to develop is compatible with the recognition of either the moral status of animals, notably when considered equal to that of humans, or the intrinsic value of the environment.

  • 11 Norton 1984.

8Some have tried to reply to the critics of anthropocentrism by stressing that, although anthropocentric views have often had, as a consequence, the domination of humans over nature, this is not by default. In other words, the fact that animals, plants and the environment have value only in virtue of the benefits they provide to human lives does not necessarily entail that individuals can do with them whatever they please. As such, anthropocentrism is not by definition inhospitable to environmental rights. The advantage of this intermediate position is that it can avoid relying on the strong ontological commitments made by non-anthropocentrists in attributing intrinsic value to nature11. As we shall see below, an example of this intermediate position is provided by those authors who believe that an obligation to preserve the environment stems from the need of future human beings to live minimally decent lives.

  • 12 For a good introduction to this debate see Grosseries 2001. For a republican approach on the matter (...)

9Intergenerational Justice Other authors have approached the environmental crisis from the perspective of intergenerational justice. The core idea here is that the overexploitation of the environment is wrong in that it does not leave enough (sufficientarian basis) or equal opportunities and resources (egalitarian basis) to the following generations. In other terms, contra the previous approach, the main concern in this case is the well-being of humans, and of future humans in particular. This perspective, then, suggests to moderate our impact on the environment by taking into account the interests of future generations so that they have at least those resources necessary to enjoy a decent life or, more demandingly, a life that is comparable to the one enjoyed by many individuals of current developed countries12.

  • 13 Parfit 1987.
  • 14 Grosseries 2001: 296.
  • 15 An interesting solution to the non-identity problem has been discussed by Gardner 2015.

10This approach, apparently, has the advantage of clearly introducing a temporal dimension within the debates surrounding the environmental crisis. Undeniably, indeed, future humans will suffer the most from it. And yet, the intergenerational justice approach does not seem to capture what is distinctively wrong with such a crisis. After all, one might ask whether the exploitation of the environment would be fully justified had it not any significant impact on future human beings. Crucially, moreover, it is far from clear what our specific obligations toward future humans are, and what to do once this question is clarified. Do we owe them just «enough», as sufficientarians claim, or does every generation have to enjoy an equal amount of goods, as egalitarians believe? And what should we do to accomplish these aims, respectively? Does the egalitarian goal meet any feasibility-requirement? Furthermore, most people believe that it is rational to discount the future because it is uncertain. If I have to choose between gaining 10 dollars now and 10 dollars tomorrow, I should prefer getting them now because there is no telling what might happen tomorrow. If so, it might be reasonable to apply a similar discounting to future generations, given the uncertainty that they will actually exist. But how much is it right to discount the future? Finally, the intergenerational justice debates is vulnerable to what Parfit has famously called the non-identity problem13. That is, the idea according to which, when dealing with future people, we are in a situation in which the absence of allegedly harmful actions (e.g., we stop polluting) also involves the inexistence of the allegedly harmed people (i.e., future generations harmed by pollution). Indeed, many of our actions «affect the temporal sequence of our actions, including the moment of our sexual intercourse. As a result, they will also affect the very identity of the people who will be born»14. As such, despite many of our actions seem now at least intuitively harmful to future generations, they should be considered harmless nonetheless: absent them, in fact, future harmed individuals would simply not come into being. In short, then, the intergenerational approach should explain how we can harm future individuals in the first place. And this task can be a difficult one15.

  • 16 For the need for strong international institutions see for ex.: Held 1995; Caney 2006; Habermas 201 (...)

11Global Governance Another view worth mentioning is the global governance approach. The driving motivation behind it is that, whatever the specific justice-based account we adopt to assess the environmental crisis, there is certainly a need for common action in order to effectively address it. In more detail, according to the global governance approach, states individually do not simply have the capacity to effectively cope with problems and dynamics global in nature – think of, notably, climate change. As such, they need to cooperate. However, lacking any fully binding mechanism forcing states to cooperate at the international as well as supranational level, this need for cooperation can hardly be satisfied in the contemporary world. That is why global governance scholars advocate the establishment of strong international institutions or even a political cosmopolis as the only manner through which the environmental crisis can be successfully tackled16.

  • 17 On the need for gradualism in matter of institutional change: Buckinx 2011.

12Now, this kind of literature is to be welcomed given the attention it attributes to non-ideal concerns such as what to do in order to lead less than ideal agents to cooperate vis-à-vis collective problems which overcome their individual capacity to effectively address them. And we do in fact believe that binding international institutions of some sort are necessary in order to solve most of the problems raised by the environmental crisis. And yet, it precisely at the non-ideal level that the global governance approach reveals its greatest weakness. For on this view it ultimately remains unclear how self-interested and sovereign actors such as states could be incentivised to build supranational and international institutions meant to constrain their behaviour in a significant way. Nor is it clear how much domination and even violence the establishment of these institutions would bring about notwithstanding the recommendation to accomplish this in a legitimate as well as gradual way17. In short, further considerations are needed to support this approach.

  • 18 On climate change and human rights: Caney 2010.
  • 19 On the duties to mitigate, adapt, and compensate: Moellendorf 2015.

13Climate Change Other authors have adopted a narrower perspective and focused on specific questions raised by the environmental crisis rather than approaching it as a whole. Importantly, many have addressed it through the lenses of climate change given its apparent impact on the environment. Despite the differences among the approaches, the core thought now is that climate change exposes individuals to a variety of great risks which are bad in that they may impact on individuals’ basic needs (e.g., the need to basic food, shelter, and security) – and, according to some, on the related human rights as a result18. These basic needs, as such, ground the duty on people to mitigate these risks if possible, to put individuals in the condition to adapt when the risks are already too high, and to compensate in case of failure19.

  • 20 See for ex. Vanderheiden 2009; and Page 2017.
  • 21 Cf. Caney 2011; Cf. Gardiner 2004.
  • 22 Gardiner 2004: 578-583.
  • 23 For ex.: Shue 1999.
  • 24 Among others: Page 2008.

14It is then a further complicated question how to establish by whom this set of duties should be discharged. For some, the duty to mitigate climate change and to reduce emissions should be divided among states on an equal per capita basis20. However, such a division seems unfair insofar in that it does not really treat people equally. As a matter of fact, what should be equal is each person’s needs and well being rather than their emissions21. According to others, the duties to mitigate climate change, help to adapt, and compensate should instead fall on the most developed countries in the first place. After all, these countries have contributed to causing climate change to a greater extent than other countries (responsibility for the past approach)22. And yet, intuitive as this idea might be, it remains actually hard to specify how much harm has resulted from their contribution and hence difficult to make them pay in proportion to their causal impact. Moreover, many damages to the climate were brought about when developed countries had little knowledge of climate change, so their ignorance should perhaps count as a mitigating factor. For others, then, it is better to distribute the burden of mitigating climate change, of creating the conditions for adaption and of compensation according to ones’ own capacity. The greater the latter the greater the burden (ability to pay principle)23. The problem with this position is that, while meeting the ought-implies-can criterion, it seems unfair to pay for faults which are not our own. Complementarily, it is somewhat counter-intuitive to ignore the historical record of countries’ different impact on climate. Other authors, then, have advanced hybrid positions which try to combine the principles above in a way that preserves their advantages while avoiding their shortcomings24.

  • 25 Caney 2014.

15Finally, according to more future-oriented proposals, no matter the approach we choose to attribute the primary duties to mitigate, enable adaptation and compensate, the point is to make sure that primary duty bearers in effect comply with these duties. Otherwise, climate change would not be effectively addressed. To accomplish this, that is, to avoid future harms, second-order responsibilities are needed. In particular, the second-order responsibility to design social contexts in a way that induces primary duty bearers to comply with their first-order duties. In this way, therefore, the debate on climate change has been transformed into a debate about the international institutions we need to ensure that states discharge their duties25.

  • 26 Wilson 1989.
  • 27 Callicott, Crowder, Mumford 1999.
  • 28 Norton 1994.
  • 29 The full text is available at:
  • 30 For example, multiple biodiversity indicators considered are taxonomic diversity; phylogenetic dive (...)

16The Loss of Biodiversity The last problem commonly associated with the environmental crisis, which is crucial to discuss, is the loss of biodiversity, i.e., the reduction in the number of different species in the environment26. Many have stressed that this notion is quite vague27 and intrinsically value-laden, to the point that an uncontroversial empirical operationalisation of the concept is difficult to achieve28. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity defines biodiversity along different dimensions as «the variability among living organisms from all sources including […] diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems»29. Linking these three dimensions to a plethora of different indicators, biodiversity is widely acknowledged to be declining30.

17There are two major sources of this loss of biodiversity. The first is the increase in human population and its geographical expansion, which brings about human appropriation of natural resources, modification of habitats and climate and the spread of exotic pathogens, plants and animals. The second is the significant increase in habitats’ temperature due to climate change.

  • 31 Ceballos, Ehrlich, Dirzo 2017.

18Recently, the American Academy of Sciences emphatically claimed that the current situation is much more serious than a mere reduction in biological diversity. What we are witnessing is a genuine «mass extinction», the result of «biological annihilation» on an unprecedented scale31. Dwindling population sizes and range shrinkages are worrying trends commonly associated with the loss of biodiversity. However, according to recent studies, species are not only exhibiting fewer individuals, surviving in fewer habitats. They are genuinely dying out, or are about to die out. Roughly a third of the species losing populations are not currently considered endangered, even though they may be at serious risk of becoming extinct. The current rate of population decline is frightening and escalating: nearly half of the 177 mammal species surveyed lost more than 80% of their distribution between 1900 and 2015. The loss of biodiversity and the increase in species extinction have an obvious impact on the environment.

  • 32 Ceballos, Ehrlich, Dirzo 2017.

19Different normative considerations are given for why biodiversity is valuable and why its loss is a problem. Most empirical scientists believe is essential for future life on earth because it discharges a key functional role in ecosystems, and biotic impoverishment can markedly alter the biogeochemical and dynamic properties of ecosystems. In the aptly dramatic words of leading scientists: «humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe»32.

  • 33 Randall 1988.
  • 34 Norton 2014.
  • 35 Callicott 1986.
  • 36 Regan 1986.

20Many philosophers endorse a similar perspective, considering biodiversity instrumentally valuable, because its loss will generate clear harms to human beings, bringing about dramatic ecological, economic and social consequences33. Such conceptions view biodiversity in the broadly anthropocentric light discussed above34. Other philosophers believe that species and life on earth have intrinsic value, i.e., in and of itself35 and independently from its benefits to human beings36. This a more radical position because it allows potentially significant sacrifice of human welfare for the preservation of the environment. Regardless of the specific reasons for why it is considered valuable, most scholars agree that it is a crucial challenge that requires a timely coordinated answer.

21This special issue will investigate the philosophical foundations of the environmental crisis outlined above and the practical import of its consequences. The special issue is divided in four sections, from the most theoretical to the most applied. The first section is entitled Ontological Reflections on the Environment and addresses questions about what the environment is and how we should conceive it. Is it simply a factual object or is it rather a value-laden entity? Should its value be understood in relation to humans or does it have an intrinsic value? The second section addresses the environmental crisis through the normative lenses of the concept of responsibility and is entitled: Responsibility for the Environment. In a nutshell, it asks: given that the environment has a certain value, who should remedy the damages that humans have caused? How could we ensure that such remedial responsibilities are discharged by their bearers? The third section is called: The Environment and Human Rights and it connects the previous debate with the wide literature on human rights. Is a clean environment implied by other human rights? Is it helpful to add a clean environment to our current lists of human rights? How should this right be balanced against other human rights, such as the right to economic development? Fourth, and finally, the last section, New Problems and Perspectives, introduces some new paths that the literature may and perhaps should take.

22Tiziana Andina opens the first section on the ontology of the environment by analysing the structure of social actions. In particular, according to the author some social actions have a transgenerational nature. That is, they create a bond among generations. This is because these actions, to be carried out, need the cooperation of future individuals, who, moreover, will have to cope with the effects of these actions. This means that through such transgenerational actions present generations in effect burden future generations with a series of duties – namely, to complete the action undertaken and to pay the costs for its effects if present. What is problematic from a normative perspective, however, is that, despite this intergenerational bond, present generations generally refuse to consider future generations as having also rights rather than just duties. This is apparent if one looks at climate change, the author claims: many societies have industrialised (social action) and therefore polluted the atmosphere; they have left the costs of completing industrialisation and of paying for its externalities (duties) to future generations; and yet, while doing this, they have not taken into account the interests (which ground rights) of future generations, not even the basic ones (e.g., to survive). This is an injustice. Because of this, present generations should acknowledge that future individuals are right-holders as well, and steer the future in ways that will not prejudice their rights, especially the one to survive (e.g., current societies should significantly reduce emissions).

23Francesca De Vecchi looks instead at the environment through the lenses of a phenomenological perspective which emphasises a personalistic rather than naturalistic outlook. The paper explores the idea of the environment as common-surrounding, something upon which human beings inevitably project value when they perceive it. The paper argues that qualitative social ontology in particular provides a crucial contribution in accounting for the environment and its crisis because the value qualities of the entities of the common-surrounding world are essential parts of their very identity. An appropriate conception of the environment is crucial to any philosophical investigation of its crisis. However, De Vecchi conception also carries normative consequences. Viewing the environment as part of us, we have strong reasons to care about it. Moreover, the qualitative perspective identifies what is at stake not only in the existence of such entities, but also in the quality of their existence and fulfilment.

24Davide Vecchi opens the second section on responsibility supporting the idea that we have a responsibility as a human species to care for the environment. Traditionally, liberal political philosophy conceives responsibility in individual terms. Collective responsibility is usually thought of as reducible to specific actors within the group, and it is stronger the more formally organised the group is. Davide Vecchi criticises the atomistic liberal conception by drawing instead on the literature on organismality, i.e., the biological property that grounds species collective moral responsibility. He argues that an organismal group comes into existence when it is characterised by (a) spatial proximity, (b) genomic homogeneity, (c) partner fidelity and (d) adaptive beneficial cooperation. The human species, according to Vecchi, might be considered highly organismal and thus a moral agent in the full sense of the term. As such, this agent ought to care for the environment.

25Silvia Bacchetta focuses on how to ensure that responsible parties are actually compliant with the agreed distribution of the costs of reparation. Focusing on the Paris accord, the paper outlines a misalignment between the reasons for agreeing to the compact and the reason for complying with it. In particular, a significant flaw lies in approaching international deals with the strategy of maximising flexibility: it indeed becomes easier to find an agreement, but the flexibility results in very low institutional capacity to ensure reasonable compliance. The paper advocates that global environmental institutions should not only deliver the ratification of an agreement, but they should also have the means to oversee its implementation as well, by monitoring countries’ progress and enforcing their compliance.

26The paper of Sebastian Muders introduces the third section of this special issue, whose focus is on human rights as related to the environmental crisis. In particular, Muders explores the concept of human dignity which is often said to ground human rights and to account for the special status of humans. The rationale behind the paper is the following: if it is true that there is something special with human dignity, then we should show some concern for the environment because it is the context which enables creatures with such a special feature to live. At the same time, however, it would also be clear that the respect for humans generally trumps the respect owed to non-human animals as well non-animal species. In more detail, Muders notices that human dignity is usually said to possess three fundamental features: it is final, inherent, and absolute. The author first clarifies the meaning of these terms. Second, he shows that human dignity has indeed these three characteristics and that, third, they are properties of a single value. As such, human dignity cannot but confer a special status upon humans.

27Markku Oksanen, instead, asks whether human rights can be understood as one of the causes of the current environmental crisis or they actually represent a solution to it. Indeed, on the one hand, focusing on human rights qua rights held by humans involves stressing further the supposed primacy of humans over any non-human being. Moreover, the fulfilment of human rights requires a certain degree of exploitation of the environment as well as non-human animals. On the other hand, however, some human rights, such as the one to clean water and air, could actually be beneficial to the environment and its protection. The author argues that we should ultimately take the latter route and support a conception of human rights which, despite its focus on the protection of humans in the first place, is as eco-friendly as possible.

28The last section of this special issue covers new questions that might, and perhaps should, prompt additional attention in the future. The first paper is by Andrea Borghini, Nicola Piras and Beatrice Serini and it focuses on the issue of food, notably its ontology: what food is and how we should think about it. With the degradation of the environment and the expansion of human population, the need to feed ourselves will become an increasingly salient issue. The paper criticises an erroneous dichotomy in the way we think about overcoming this issue: either we blindly hope that technology will deliver sustainable and pleasurable sustenance to future generations, or we think that we will have to drastically change our dietary customs. Both alternatives rest however on a purely naturalistic understanding of food. Food, Borghini, Piras and Serini argue instead, is a socially constructed object: it is not just plain nourishment and any proposed solution would only work if it properly understands food as a fundamental part of a complex social world.

29The second paper by Sue Spaid outlines a new idea of justice through which we should assess the environmental crisis. That is, what the author calls hydrological justice, namely, an idea of justice according to which we should treat hydrological problems as extremely relevant if not primary when it comes to effectively addressing the environmental crisis. This kind of justice, the author claims, requires transparency, kinship and the use of coercion to tackle hydrological questions. Moreover, this idea of justice should complement the idea of climate justice as to offer a comprehensive assessment of our current environmental crisis.

Torna su


Buckinx, B. 2011, Domination in global politics: Reflections onfreedom and an argument for incremental global change, in L. Cabrera (ed.) Global Governance, Global Government. Institutional Visions for an Evolving World System, Albany (NY), State University of New York, 253-282.

Cabrera, L. 2004, Political Theory and Global Justice. A Cosmopolitan Case for the World State, New York, Routledge.

Callicot, J.B. 1986, On the intrinsic value of nonhuman species, in B.G. Norton (ed.) The Preservation of Species: The Value of Biological Diversity, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Callicot, J.B, Crowder L.B., Mumford, K. 1999, Current normative concepts in conservation, “Conservation Biology”, 13, 1: 22-35.

Caney, S. 2006, Cosmopolitan justice and institutional design: An egalitarian liberal conception of global governance, “Social Theory and Practice”, 32, 4: 725-756.

Caney, S. 2010, Climate change, human rights, and moral thresholds, in S. Humphreys (ed.), Human Rights and Climate Change, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 69-90.

Caney, S. 2011, Climate change, energy rights, and equality, in D. Arnold (ed.), The Ethics of Global Climate Change, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 77-103.

Caney, S. 2014, Two kinds of climate justice: Avoiding harm and sharing burdens, “The Journal of Political Philosophy”, 22, 2: 125-149.

Ceballos, G., Ehrlich, P.R., Dirzo R. 2017, Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signalled by vertebrate population losses and declines, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114, 30: 6089-6096.

Gardiner, S.M. 2004, Ethics and global climate change, “Ethics”, 114: 555-600.

Gardner, M. 2015, A Harm-Based Solution to the Non-Identity Problem, “Ergo”, 2, 17: 427-444.

Garner, R. 2002, Animal rights, political theory and the liberal tradition, “Contemporary Politics”, 8, 1: 7-22.

Grosseries, A. 2001, What Do We Owe the Next Generation(s)?, “Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review”, 35: 293-354.

Habermas, J. 2012 The Crisis of the European Union: A Response, Cambridge, Polity Press.

Held, D. 1995 Democracy and the Global Order. From the Modern States to Cosmopolitan Governance, California, Stanford University Press.

Intergovernamental Panel on Climate Change 2019, Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, <>.

Krause, S.R. 2019, Environmental Domination, “Political Theory”, Early View,

McNeill, J.R. 2014, The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945, Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press.

Moelloendorf, D. 2011, A right to sustainable development, “The Monist”, 94, 1: 433-452.

Moelloendorf, D. 2015, Climate change justice, “Philosophy Compass”, 10, 3: 173-186.

Naeem, S., Duffy, E.J., Zavaleta, E. 2012, The functions of biological diversity in an age of extinction, “Science”, 336, 6087: 1401-1406.

Nolt, J. 2011 Greenhouse emissions and the domination of posterity, in D. Arnold (ed.), The Ethics of Climate Change, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 60-76.

Nordhaus, W.D. 2014, A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies, London, Yale University Press.

Norton, B.G. 1984, Environmental ethics and weak anthropocentrism, “Environmental Ethics”, 6, 2: 131-148.

Norton, B.G. 1994, On what we should save: The role of culture in determining conservation targets, “Systematics Association Social Volume”, 50: 23-23.

Norton, B.G. 2014, The Preservation of Species, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Page, E.A. 2008, Distributing the burdens of climate change, “Environmental Politics”, 17, 4: 556-575.

Page, E.A. 2017, Climate Change, Justice and Future Generations, Cheltenham (UK), Edward Elgar.

Parfit, D. 1987, Reasons and Persons, Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Randall, A. 1988, What mainstream economists have to say about the value of biodiversity, in E.O. Wilson (ed.), Biodiversity, Washington, National Academy of Sciences/Smithsonian Institution: 217-223.

Regan, D.H. 1986, Duties of preservation, in B.G. Norton (ed.), The Preservation of Species: The Value of Biological Diversity, Princeton, Princeton University Press: 195-221.

Routley, R., Routley, V. 1980, Human Chauvinism and Environmental Ethics, in D. Mannison, M.A. McRobbie, R. Routley (eds), Environmental Philosophy, Canberra, Australasian National University, Research School of Social Sciences: 96-189.

Santana, C. 2019, Waiting for the anthropocene, “The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science”, 70, 4: 1073‒1096.

Shue, H. 1999, Global environment and international inequality, “International Affairs”, 75, 3: 531-545.

Shue, H. 1993, Subsistence Emissions and Luxury Emissions, “Law & Policy”, 15, 1: 39-60.

Stern, N.H. 2007, The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Unsustainable Development Goals 2019, Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’, <>.

Vanderheiden, S. 2009, Atmospheric Justice: A Political Theory of Climate Change, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Wilson, E.O. 1989, Threats to biodiversity, “Scientific American”, 261, 3: 108-117.

World Bank, 2019, Data Environment, <>.

Torna su


1 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, esp. ch. 3, (accessed: 21st May 2020).

2 Moellendorf 2015: 173.

3 (accessed: 6 May 2020).

4 UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’, (accessed: 21st May 2020).

5 Cf. Santana 2019.

6 Cf. McNeill 2014.

7 On the domination of non-human animals and the environment see for ex. Krause 2019.

8 Cf. Garner 2002.

9 Routley R., Routley V. 1980.

10 Moellendorf 2011. Cf. Shue 1993.

11 Norton 1984.

12 For a good introduction to this debate see Grosseries 2001. For a republican approach on the matter according to which present generations exercise an arbitrary – namely, unchecked and uncontrolled – power over future generations see Nolt 2011. For a utilitarian view of the matter: Stern 2007; Nordhaus 2014.

13 Parfit 1987.

14 Grosseries 2001: 296.

15 An interesting solution to the non-identity problem has been discussed by Gardner 2015.

16 For the need for strong international institutions see for ex.: Held 1995; Caney 2006; Habermas 2012. For the idea of a political cosmopolis: Cabrera 2004.

17 On the need for gradualism in matter of institutional change: Buckinx 2011.

18 On climate change and human rights: Caney 2010.

19 On the duties to mitigate, adapt, and compensate: Moellendorf 2015.

20 See for ex. Vanderheiden 2009; and Page 2017.

21 Cf. Caney 2011; Cf. Gardiner 2004.

22 Gardiner 2004: 578-583.

23 For ex.: Shue 1999.

24 Among others: Page 2008.

25 Caney 2014.

26 Wilson 1989.

27 Callicott, Crowder, Mumford 1999.

28 Norton 1994.

29 The full text is available at:

30 For example, multiple biodiversity indicators considered are taxonomic diversity; phylogenetic diversity; genetic diversity; functional diversity; spatial or temporal diversity; interaction diversity; landscape diversity. Cf. Naeem, Duffy, Zavaleta 2012.

31 Ceballos, Ehrlich, Dirzo 2017.

32 Ceballos, Ehrlich, Dirzo 2017.

33 Randall 1988.

34 Norton 2014.

35 Callicott 1986.

36 Regan 1986.

Torna su

Per citare questo articolo

Notizia bibliografica

Carlo Burelli e Davide Pala, «The Environmental Crisis and Its Injustice. An (Inevitably Short) Introduction »Rivista di estetica, 75 | 2020, 3-16.

Notizia bibliografica digitale

Carlo Burelli e Davide Pala, «The Environmental Crisis and Its Injustice. An (Inevitably Short) Introduction »Rivista di estetica [Online], 75 | 2020, online dal 02 février 2021, consultato il 12 juin 2024. URL:; DOI:

Torna su


Carlo Burelli

Articoli dello stesso autore

Davide Pala

Articoli dello stesso autore

Torna su

Diritti d’autore


Solamente il testo è utilizzabile con licenza CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Salvo diversa indicazione, per tutti agli altri elementi (illustrazioni, allegati importati) la copia non è autorizzata ("Tutti i diritti riservati").

Torna su
Cerca su OpenEdition Search

Sarai reindirizzato su OpenEdition Search