The book with a contribution on New Challenges in the context of Environmental Democracy is now reaching the final stage of production.
Editors of the book titled
公众环境参与的国际经验 (The International Experience of Enviornmental Participation)
are Ka Lin and Haoran Lv.
From the introduction to my contribution 环境民主——新的挑战 (Environmental Democracy – New Challenges)
One may assume that the ongoing problems about sustainability are the lack of a clear definition; however, we may say that the actual problem is not the lack of such a definition itself but the claim that we need such description. Einstein supposedly said ‘the environment is everything that isn’t me’ (Einstein, 1931). The debate over the definition invites us to imagine and accept the multiple dimensions of the environmental issues. At least the following are seen as essential for the present context, namely the discussion of environmental democracy:
- it is a matter of the organic nature
- it is concerned with the inorganic, i.e. human-made surrounding
- it is about the people around us, and with this a matter of the social itself
- and not least it is about how we as human beings relate to this environment.
One important further moment at the outset is the necessity of distinguishing between the environment itself and environmental issues, understood as perception of and dealing with issues that concern the environment.
However, crucially important is the fundamental and widening process of disembedding and dichotomization. For the current subject, the following are the most decisive dimensions:
- the constitution of human existence as centre, thus establishing (and following) the rule from the biblical order defined in Genesis 1/28 which states: ‘fill the earth and subdue it’ (the roots being Christianity and capitalism)
- the subsequent separation of human beings and human existence from nature (the roots being Christian and Cartesian thinking)
- the juxtaposing of individuals and society (the roots being Western enlightenment and the [in part] subsequent utilitarianism)
- and finally the disembedding of the economy and economic processes from the social and societal processes (analysed by Karl Polanyi)
Against this background we have to highlight some fundamental shortcomings of the concept of environmental democracy. Such critique will be based in a very short presentation of the main lines of the understanding as they are defined by the Summit in Rio and the Aarhus Declaration.