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Nouvelle publication de Caroline Patsias : Environmental justice against environmental policies: the example of Montreal boroughs

« Environmental Justice Against Environmental Policies: The Example of Montreal Boroughs». Journal of environmental planning and policy.  

ABSTRACT

This article examines middle- and working-class citizens’ opposition to green policies in two Montreal boroughs. Through observation of council meetings, it seeks to understand how citizens discuss green policies in local political institutions. In this study, citizens do not oppose environmental policies by principle nor deny the existence of environmental problems. Rather, they feel swept along by a ‘green revolution’ for which they will bear most of the costs without any short-term benefit. In order to voice this concern, they tend to use the notion of environmental justice in opposition to environmental policies. Their understanding of environmental justice merges a procedural critique of democracy regarding participation and transparency and a substantial critique of inequities in the distribution of the environmental burden. These citizens also manifest an attachment to their neighborhood that connects the environment to the concept of the common good and an exercise of democracy. In this regard, this study reveals how citizens who mobilized within institutions come to a political understanding of environmental issues through the notion of environmental justice.

Introduction

It is increasingly difficult to plead ignorance of the ecological crisis. The results of scientific studies on the matter have been reported in the mass media, and some indicators of climate change have become visible to the non-expert eye: rising water levels, warmer summers, earlier droughts, disappearance of species, etc. (Browne, 2018; Kolbert, 2014). How, then, can we explain the denial of climate change on the part of some citizens or their resistance to green policies? Studies have pointed to the roles of ideology, resentment (Cramer, 2016; Hochschild, 2016) and/or egotism, with respect to the Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) and Locally Unwanted Land-Use (LULU) phenomena (e.g. Bullard & Wright, 2009; Schively, 2007). Based on the observation of citizens’ opposition to environmental policies in two borough councils of Montreal (Canada) between 2016 and 2020, this article suggests another explanation for this opposition via the notion of environmental (in)justice – briefly defined as the unequal consequences of environmental issues and policies on citizens (Taylor, 2000). I indeed argue that the use of environmental justice points to the need for more transparent and inclusive democratic policymaking and expresses a concern for the distributive consequences of policies on the daily life of citizens. These elements have been underscored by other studies at the municipal level (Kreller & Graham, 2019). However, these quantitative studies do not observe citizens ‘in context’ (Eliasoph, 1998) within representative institutions. In contrast, in this article, I illustrate how the airing of environmental justice is embedded in the practice of democracy. Also, I do not examine, as it was done previously, the mobilizations for environmental justice and green policies but instead how environmental justice can fuel the opposition to green policies.

Lien vers l’article complet : https://doi.org/10.1080/1523908X.2022.2079476

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