A social constructivist understanding of culture for environmental justice and policy

Authors

  • Abiodun Paul Afolabi University of Pretoria; Adekunle Ajasin University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.38140/aa.v55i2.7722

Keywords:

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

Abstract

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.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

References

Adger WN, Barnett J, Brown K, Marshall N and O’Brien K. 2013. Cultural dimensions of climate change impacts and adaptation Nature and Climate Change 3: 112-117.

Adger WN. 2016. Place, Well-being, and fairness shape priorities for adaptation to climate change. Global Environmental Change 38: A1-A3.

Amantova-Salmane L. 2020. Ethical aspects of sustainability. Journal of Social Science 1(7): 1-16.

Appiah KA. 2005. The ethics of identity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

JR Baldwin, SL Faulkner, ML Hecht and SL Lindsley (eds). 2006. Redefining culture: perspectives across the disciplines. London: Routledge.

Becker J, Pohn-Lauggas M and Santos H. 2023. Reconstructive biographical research. Current Sociology 00 (0) 1-155.

Benhabib S. 2002. The claims of culture: equality and diversity in the global era. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Berger PL and Luckmann T. 1966. The social construction of reality. A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

Betzold C. 2015. Adapting to climate change in small island developing states. Climatic Change 133: 481-489.

Faulkner SL, Lindsley SL and Hecht ML. 2006. Layers of meaning: an analysis of definitions of culture. In: Baldwin JR, Faulkner SL, Hecht ML and Lindsley SL (eds). Redefining culture: perspectives across the disciplines. London: Routledge.

Ford JD and Pearce T. 2012. Climate change vulnerability and adaptation research focusing on the inuit subsistence sector in Canada: directions for future research. The Canadian Geographer 2012 (56): 275-287.

Fuchs S. 2001. Against essentialism: a theory of culture and society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Garvey J. 2008. The ethics of climate change: right and wrong in a warming world. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Gyekye K. 1997. Tradition and modernity: philosophical reflections on the African Experience. Oxford University Press.

Henderson M and Seekamp E. 2018. Battling the tides of climate change: the power of intangible cultural resource values to bind place meanings in vulnerable historic districts. Heritage 1(2): 220-238.

Heyward C. 2014. Climate change as a cultural injustice. In: Brooks T (ed). New Waves in Global Justice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hulme M. 2015. Climate and its changes: a cultural appraisal. Geo: Geography and Environment 2 (1): 1-11.

Idang GE. 2015. African culture and values. Phronimon 16(2): 97-111.

Kim H. 2011. Changing climate, changing culture: adding the climate change dimension to the protection of intangible cultural heritage. International Journal of Cultural Property 18: 259-290.

Kumar Dhir R. 2019. Introduction. In: Ahearn A, Oelz M and Kumar R (eds). Indigenous peoples and climate change: emerging research on traditional knowledge and livelihoods. Genève: International Labour Organisation.

Kymlicka W. 1995a. Multicultural citizenship: a liberal theory of minority rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kymlicka W (ed). 1995b. The rights of minority culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lear J. 2006. Radical hope: ethics in the face of cultural devastation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Magrath J. 2010. The injustice of climate change: voices from Africa. Local Environment 15(9-10): 891-901.

Mathews F. 2005. Reinhabiting reality: toward a recovery of culture. New York: State University of New York Press.

Maus S. 2014. Hand in hand against climate change: cultural human rights and the protection of cultural heritage. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 27(4): 699-716.

McGrath MB. 2023. Cultural appropriation: an Husserlian Account. Continental Philosophy Review 56: 483-504.

Oksanen M. 2014. Global warming and the critique of culture. Ethical Perspectives 21(4): 539-563.

Rani U and Oelz M. 2019. Sustaining and preserving the traditional knowledge and institutions of indigenous communities: reflections on the way forward. In: Ahearn A, Oelz M and Kumar Dhir R (eds). Indigenous peoples and climate change: emerging research on traditional knowledge and livelihoods. Genève: International Labour Organisation.

Strauss, Sarah. 2012. Are cultures endangered by climate change? Yes, but… WIREs Climate Change 3: 371-377.

Surulola, Eke. 2020. ‘Nomad savage’ and herder–farmer conflicts in Nigeria: the (un)making of an Ancient Myth. Third World Quarterly 41(5): 745-763.

Taylor C. 1994. The politics of recognition. In: Taylor C, Appiah KA, Habermas J, Rockefeller SC, Walzer M and Wolf S (eds). Multiculturalism: examining the politics of recognition. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Teo T-A. 2021. Multiculturalism beyond citizenship: the inclusion of non-citizens. Ethnicities 21(1): 165-191.

Toulmin C. 2009. Climate change in Africa. London/New York: Zed Books.

Tschakert P, Barnett J and Ellis N, Lawrence C, Tuana N, New M, Elrick-Barr, Pandit R, Pannel D. 2017. Climate change and loss, as if people mattered: values, places, and experiences. WIREs Climate Change 8(5): 1-19.

Turner T. 1993. Anthropology and multiculturalism: what is anthropology that multiculturalists should be mindful of it? Cultural Anthropology 8(4): 411-29.

Turner NJ, Gregory C, Brooks L, Failing L and Satterfield T. 2008 From invisibility to transparency: identifying the implications. Ecology and Society 13(2): 7.

Tylor EB. 1958. Primitive culture: researches into the development of mythology, philosophy, religion, language, art and custom. Second edition. London: John Murray.

Westra L. 2009. Environmental justice and the rights of ecological refugees. London: Routledge.

Weart S. 2012. The development of the concept of dangerous anthropogenic climate change. In: Dryzek JS, Norgaard RB and Schlosber D (eds). The Oxford handbook of climate change and society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wiessner S. 2011. The cultural rights of indigenous peoples: achievements and continuing challenges. European Journal of International Law 22(1): 121-140.

Zellentin A. 2015 Climate justice, small island developing states & cultural loss. Climatic Change 133(3): 491-498.

Zellentin A. 2010. Climate migration: cultural aspects of climate change. Analyse & Kritik 1: 63-86.

Published

2023-12-06