Politics and philosophy in environmentalism : the implications of political theory for environmental policy-making in liberal democratic states (1999)
This thesis explores the relevance of philosophy for enviromental policy-making in liberal democratic states. The hypothesis is that the basic tenets of liberal democratic theory determine the worldview of western states, thereby setting the parameters and priorities for environmental policy making. In conjunction with this, an additional hypothesis is that environmentalism, as an ideologically distinct entity, is of little relevance to this policy making. In order to examine these hypotheses, a realist scientific framework for knowledge is established in which an ideology is shown to be similar in structure to one of Kuhn's "paradigms". This in turn establishes that an underlying theory can indeed shape individual and state perceptions of reality. Using this realist framework as a basis, liberal ideology is analysed and basic themes and dispositions of environmentalism are identified. In essence, these suggest that the central priority of a liberal democracy is caring for the physical and material interests of the individual. Furthermore, political action which restricts this liberty can only take place if it is to protect the libe1iy of others who are in some way affected by it. This action can usually only take place if there is some degree of scientific certainty stemming from empirical evidence that a problem affecting the liberty of others does in fact exist. This is particularly significant for enviromental issues as the complexity of environmental problems often means that no such scientific certainty can be established. Environmental theories are also analysed to determine the compatibility of the environmental movement with liberal democratic policy making. Environmentalism is divided into two distinct themes: ecologism, which is its ideological component; and mainstream environmentalism which often involves scientific and instrumental aspects. Ecologism has no compatibility with, or relevance to, liberal democratic policy making. The instrumental and scientific aspects are compatible but essentially run parallel to liberal democratic considerations and are hence indistinguishable. In this sense, as this fits the underlying p1iorities of the state, it too is irrelevant and has little effect on policy making which would not occur independently. A brief overview of New Zealand's environmental policy, in the form of policy statements and a look at the impetus behind, and the strength of, the Resource Management Act loosely illustrates the correctness of these conclusions.
KeywordsEnvironmental policy--Political aspects; Environmental policy--Philosophy; Environmentalism--Political aspects; Environmentalism--Philosophy; Environmental policy--New Zealand
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