A social constructivist understanding of culture for environmental justice and policy


  • Abiodun Paul Afolabi University of Pretoria; Adekunle Ajasin University




culture, cultural theory, climate justice, evironmental justice, climate treaty


In addressing the environmental threats to cultural resources, some environmental ethicists have taken for granted the idea that culture has an essential character of change that is to be welcomed. In this article, I show that there are pressing moral issues, in this age of environmental crisis, that lurk behind the idea that culture has an essential nature of change. One question that I address is whether, if change is always a pervasive part of culture, we should be morally neutral about changes to cultural values and resources, especially when such change is harmful and external forces are responsible. To address this question, I adopt a social constructivist understanding of culture to show why concerns for loss of culture in the event of environmental crisis that is qualified as cultural change is normatively flawed. I argue that this perspective on culture, yet to be considered in environmental justice literature, prescribes not being neutral about cultural change in addressing environmental issues that affect cultural resources. I demonstrate that seeing culture in this new light has revealing implications for environmental justice. I conclude that failure to integrate this idea of environmental justice runs the risk of dismissing what is harmful to some cultural groups under the guise of ‘normal’ cultural change.


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