Social Justice and Environmental Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2202 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Economics

Social and Environmental Justice

It is an undisputed fact that the world is becoming increasingly globalized, with technology such as electronic communication making increasing amounts of information and human contacts possible. In general, one is tempted to assume that this would make the world a better, more integrated, environmentally and socially healthy world. Yet this is not the case. Representing modern thought on the subject, Robert Paehlke and Peter Singer attempt to explain the reasons behind the state of the world.

In Democracy's Dilemma Paehlke presents his views regarding globalization and the problems it presents. Being a human problem, the author recognizes that it is a very complex issue, and one that cannot be resolved by a few trite quotes. The "dilemma" faced by democracy is the fact that human beings have focused only on economics in their effort to integrate the various nations of the world. This, according to Paehlke, is not a balanced view. Other factors are also important to human well-being. These include not only economic prosperity, but also environmental and social issues that need to be resolved before holistic well-being can be achieved. At the center of this issue is the realization that economic well-being does not guarantee better lives and communities for everybody.

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A further problem addressed by Paehlke is that economic integration necessitates political integration, which entails that widely different nations with differing viewpoints and beliefs are suddenly forced to work towards a common goal. The dilemma stems from not only this fact, but also from the fact that political integration seems nearly impossible. In the absence of this then, governments need to compete at the cost of environmental and social programs that would have helped the holistic integration of nations and with it the necessary protection of the environment. Furthermore these governments make no attempt to be accessible to their citizens, and thus the dilemma appears to perpetuate itself.

Term Paper on Social Justice and Environmental Assignment

For these reasons Paehlke then attempts to establish a balance between the two extreme views of globalization: that it is to be rejected as almost evil; and that it is the absolute salvation of humankind. Unlike the former group, Paehlke recognizes that globalization is a phenomenon that cannot be denied or wished away. Instead, in accepting it, the author suggests that effort should be made to integrate societies and the world in a more effective manner.

Roughly the same argument is used by Peter Singer in his work, One World. Singer however takes a more philosophical stance than does Paehlke. The former author claims his viewpoint to be "global ethical," and bases his views upon the environment and the effects of humanity upon nature. His starting point is then also the environment, which Singer begins by focusing on the atmosphere. From there he moves to more human and social factors such as international trade regulation, national sovereignty, and the distribution of aid. These, together with the atmosphere, are the four major issues, in the author's view, that affect the world today.

For singer the problems of humankind can be alleviated by careful attention to the four issues just mentioned. Like Paehlke, Singer promotes a change in attitude regarding the issue of global integration and its effects. The first issue is then the atmosphere, in terms of which Paehlke addresses the problem of global warming and other atmospheric issues. Singer points out that some countries cause greater pollution than others, while the consequences are shared by everyone. This is obviously not fair from a social point-of-view.

The issue however becomes further complicated when it is recognized that the above-mentioned pollution is not evenly distributed, and thus in effect everybody does not suffer to the same degree. Furthermore the issue is also complicated in terms of economics. The polluter experiences greater economic effects by practices of pollution. Governments further compound the problem by indulging consumers for the benefit of their vote. This once again is a return to the issue raised by Paehlke, that economic well-being does not necessarily mean the well-being of everything and everyone else.

Indeed, Paehlke warns against the threat of "economism" that comes with globalization. This phenomenon entails the greed evident in "developed" modern countries. Life is commercialized to the extent where everything is a commodity, and this drives the compulsive consumption habits seen in western societies today. The result is once again cumulatively destructive: and increasing amount of people perform meaningless, unrewarding work to feed the hungry mouths of the greedy.

Paehlke calls the system within which these people work "electronic capitalism," because the goods produced and the means of production itself are increasingly electronic. Thus, despite the increased communication, and the enhancement in quality of such communication, global integration has resulted in an ever increasing between the unsatisfied rich and the desperate poor who work for them. The result of such a system, according to Paehlke, is that the economy rules everything. It overwhelms systems of politics, society, culture, and indeed the biosphere. The last-mentioned might be likened to Singer's idea of the atmosphere. The result is insecurity on an individual and collectively social level.

Singer's solutions are suggested on the principle of fairness. He suggests a system by which the parties responsible can carry the costs of implementing strategies for a better world. Fairness and the equity that follows, according to the author, is the only way in which positive change can be brought about within globalization. He also calls for an end to the "presumed rights as sovereign nations" favored by industrialized countries.

The above however appears rather ambitious if unrealistic when compared with Paehlke's attempt to find the true root of the problems he describes. He identifies two deficits within the globalized community. One of these is "family-time deficit," entailing the increase of work hours, and the "democratic deficit" in global decision-making structures. Another anomaly mentioned by Paehlke is the employment security that workers experience in the electronic capitalist society. Employment security as well as income decrease, despite factors in favor of these elements, including low unemployment conditions.

This is then the reason upon which Paehlke basis his thesis: happiness is not money, nor vice versa. No amount of money is going to provide the satisfaction that people inherently need. The satisfaction lies deeper than mere economic prosperity.

This is what Paehlke suggests as his solution, and the basis for the equity called for by Singer: the recognition that increased income is not the ultimate goal. Like Singer, Paehlke focuses his onslaught upon the American nation, where consumerism has indeed reached one of its high points as a substitute for a deeper, soul-searching attitude. This is the attitude that Paehlke sees as the solution for problems created by economic integration. If non-material goals can be recognized as at least equally important to material ones, integration on other levels than economic will become easier. Paehlke never calls for an absolute end to economic integration, or making use of goods and services. Instead, he calls for a more balanced incorporation of all elements of being human. This integration begins at an individual level, after which it externalizes and finally nations integrate on economic, personal and social levels.

On a practical level, Paehlke suggests that Democracy's Dilemma can be solved by means of policy initiatives involving minimal allowances. These include minimum global environmental protection standards, and minimum standards for other important areas of life such as labor, human rights and social policy. Furthermore Paehlke suggests that controlling mechanisms be imposed upon global consuming habits in order to ensure a more sustainable economy and ecology.

For Paehlke then, the solution to problems created by globalization begins with human relations and the improvement of these relations. The reason for this is that globalization is a fundamentally human phenomenon, and one where human relations play a primary role. Cooperation and equity are the main goals to be reached. Only in this atmosphere can the environment and its conservation be considered.

Singer approaches the topic from the opposite direction. For Singer, the basis of a solution lies in protecting nature. From this comes the goal of global political and social integration. Singer's view is more philosophical in nature than Paehlke's, and this is perhaps the reason why his argument appears somewhat unrealistic at times. Nonetheless, he does provide an adequate example of current thinking about the topic discussed.

Regardless of which provides the most compelling argument, however, the fact remains that both books are doubtlessly influential and timely works, from which much can be learned. Paehlke I believe has the most valid point by stating that change should begin in the human heart. Each individual should recognize that a paradigm shift is necessary if any change is to occur in terms of globalization. Further change should occur nationally, with the United States and other industrialized nations curbing their spending habits. Each change can then occur at a wider level, until finally the effect reaches the environment. External change should be preceded by internal change. The two authors' books could then be used in conjunction,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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