Justifying and juxtaposing environmental justice and sustainability: towards an inter-generational and intra-generational analysis of environmental equity in public administration.

Author:Nijaki, Laurie Kaye
Position:Report

How should public administrators integrate environmental goals in the context of the siting and permitting of noxious land uses? Communities and public administrators within their limited spheres of power must routinely evaluate development within the urban context through a dynamic approach. In a very simplified but conceptually useful account of governing local development, public administrators and their communities must decide whether or not they should develop a particular plot of land, and then decide how this development should occur. In making this decision, they must determine the economic outcome and the environmental impact, and evaluate a range of equity claims and moral questions (Beatley, 1991). They must also consider the distributional effects of both the potential environmental costs and economic benefits from this given land use decision today and tomorrow. If we assume that there are environmental costs from the development such as pollution from a manufacturing use, then, these drawbacks must be balanced along with the economic benefits such as jobs for the population. We can also assume that some degree of pollution control is possible and that prevention technology will cost money and may limit the degree of economic growth (Ayres, 2008). Given this, public administrators and the communities that they represent face three choices. They can choose to avoid all environmental costs and not develop the land, to develop the land to the maximum degree possible without pollution control measures, or the community can seek to develop the land with environmental considerations in place through the institution of sustainability plans and policies. The community must consider how to develop the land based upon the bundle of environmental costs and economic benefits associated with this action. Simply put, they must define how many jobs are worth how many units of pollution at a potentially noxious land use.

With scenarios such as this playing out daily, what principles should guide economic growth and development within public administration practice and theory? At the end of the day, preservative environmental public management approaches may be a favorable end, but how can they be justified in a complex web of actors and political aims such as the need for job growth in an economic downturn? The integration of environmental goals has evolved over the years. In the United States, a lack of environmental concern around economic growth characterized much of the development trajectory since the Industrial Revolution. Although sustainability is not a wholly new concept and has been broadly discussed in public administration (Fiorino, 2010), environmental considerations and sustainability measures often went by the way side as a result of new mass production strategies utilized to meet the mass consumer demand of the era (Andrews, 1999). In contrast, today environmental considerations are arguably more frequently considered as one evaluative dimension in public management and policy decisions. Policymakers, penning municipal sustainability and regional climate actions plans, arguably increasingly embrace environmental goals through the conceptual frame of sustainability (Wheeler, 2000), and some scholars argue that sustainability may eventually come to define public administration as a whole (Fiorino, 2010). Although the extent to which public managers have discretion is limited (1), the new sustainability framework and the aggregate measures and plans that increasingly result, may represent a fundamental shift in how public administrators evaluate development.

More specifically, how can we understand the integration of environmental values within 21st century public administration? Traditional pillars of public administration have included the guiding values of efficiency and economy. Frederickson (2010) outlines the key purposes of public organizations in the management and delivery of public services. First, efficiency aims to identify those circumstances where public services can be delivered in the optimum manner. Second, economic-driven considerations aim to effectively manage scarce resources and provide such scare resources to the public. Such an approach aims to spend the least in each circumstance. Third and finally, social equity addresses the fairness of the organization and its provision of public services. Social equity, according to Frederickson, needs the most development as a central tenant of public administration. Equity may enable considerations of fairness (Hochschield, 1981), justice (Rawls, 1971), and equality (Rae and Yates, 1981). By adding this dimensions to the discourse, public administrators may be better able to meet the needs of constituencies (Wilson, 1989). Towards that end, "New public administration" has sought to identify equity as a central, basic guideline for practice (Hart, 1974).

Are the traditional values of public administration (Fredrickson's "three Es" of efficiency, economy, equity) enough to engage the full range of challenges that public administrators must face? Specifically, how can environmental considerations be added as a vital public administration value? Conversations around development have often sought to balance the tensions between environmental growth and economic development. Within the nonprofit community, environmental justice and sustainability have provided two distinct and sometimes contradictory approaches towards the integration of environmental considerations into the development process. What unites and divides these two environmental factions engendering two distinct approaches towards environmental preservation? To that end, this conceptual paper specifically presents an examination of development decisions, within the context of these two movements. Rather than focusing on the tension between environmental considerations and the desire for economic growth, this paper aims to consider the integration of environmental considerations into public administration values by instead beginning with considerations of equity. Entering the conversation through equity as a guiding public administration value may provide a useful lens through which to understand fissures in the environmental movement, particularly those between environmental justice and sustainability frames. As noted by scholars of sustainability, many cities have failed to address social equity in the pursuit of sustainability (Portney, 2003; Agyeman and Evans, 2003; Gunder, 2006). Building on such criticism, this paper suggests that a more specific and rigorous justice frame can be applied to the nexus of environmental and economy-driven evaluations.

By beginning with equity, this paper seeks to build on this discussion through the application of rigorous justice frames to the integration of environmental considerations into public administration. The integration of environmental considerations into the public administration practice of land use decisions around the siting of noxious land uses could be evaluated in terms of justice frameworks utilizing both Rawlsian and Senian theories of justice as an initial step in further defining a justice framework around the environmental movement. (2) In doing so and in building upon a rich discussion of such dimensions (Langhelle, 1999; Scholsberg, 2003) widely cited in the policy and public administration literatures in recent decades, I revisit two contrasting types of equity in the contemporary discussion of development. First, I examine inter-generational equity and its relationship to sustainability as the primary dimension of equity. Second, I examine intra-generational equity and the environmental justice ethic. I additionally briefly discuss how environmental justice principles can be integrated into the sustainability dialogue---to identify junctures of conflict and of fusion between disparate elements of the environmental movement, and in concert with the centrality of justice and equity values within both environmental justice and sustainability or sustainable development. By utilizing the common justice frameworks by Rawls, Sen, and similar scholars seeking to build upon these analyses, this paper seeks to contribute to the scholarly discourse by more cogently and specifically applying Rawlsian and Senian justice frames as a common ground for analyzing justice components of complex development decisions with greater rigor, and in particular highlighting the manner in which environmental justice and sustainability differ and compliment each other's visions of equity and justice.

PART 1:

SUSTAINABILITY AND AN INTERGENERATIONAL APPROACH TOWARDS ENVIRONMENTAL EQUITY

Sustainability is not a new conception, and a long trajectory exists in the consideration of an array of environmental considerations and values within the development process. Specifically, according to Mazmanian and Kraft (2010), the integration of environmental goals into the local governance context can be divided into three primary epochs of environmental policy germane to the United States. The first environmental epoch was characterized as the rise of the modern environmental movement, and roughly dates from 1970 to 1990. With a legacy of pollution attributable to mass production processes, popular opinion following the post World War II economic boom began to focus on ill health impacts. The environmental movement aimed to establish environmental protection as a national priority through a bevy of national environmental policies including the Clean Air Act in 1970, Clean Water Act in 1972, and the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1973. Evolving from the first era of regulation and enforcement, the second environmental epoch dated from the 1980s until the end of the twentieth century and was characterized by flexibility and efficiency-based regulatory reform. Strategies, expanded to include policies on toxic waste and chemicals, primarily managed...

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