A Review of Foreign Research on Environmental Justice
2019, 39 (2):
Environmental justice, a focus of foreign human geography research, is defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This paper presents the progress of normative and pragmatic research on environmental justice in foreign countries, in order to introduce the new concept into the environmental research in China. The paper uses Citespace software to examine and summarize the research tendency and hotpots of environmental justice. Moreover, adapting the method of documentary analysis, the paper also elaborates the concept construction, research aspects, and methods of environmental justice, which are the basis of the review of the whole course of development of the issue abroad. The findings are as follows. First, foreign scholars construct the concepts of environmental justice mainly from three aspects, distribution justice, recognition justice, and procedure justice, which clarify the issue from the perspective of objectivity, subjectivity, and practicality, respectively. Second, the environmental justice research content is expanding to various aspects and levels that involve the pluralistic discussion on the link between demographic structure and the spatial pattern of locally unwanted land use and public service facilities, the causes of environmental injustice, the negative impacts of injustice, and the implementations for the sake of realizing environmental justice. Third, research methods are also developed and innovated step by step from qualitative and quantitative levels. Questionnaire analysis, interview, focus group, and other qualitative methods are frequently used to explore environmental conflicts and environmental decision making. Quantitative models and other complex data analysis methods are mainly used for large-scale empirical studies on environmental justice, such as the regional and country scale. In addition, the study of environmental justice covers both macro and micro scales, and the research themes at different scales also have different emphases. Community-scale studies tend to focus on environmental conflicts of interest in the local social and cultural context; regional and national scales focus on the relationship between demographic characteristics and environmental conditions; global-scale studies focus on global environmental injustice caused by climate change, waste transfer, and other issues. Multi-scale research also shows that the realization of environmental justice requires joint efforts of all levels of society. This study expects that the concept of environmental justice can be put into effect in the Chinese context. In academic research, the analytical framework of environmental justice links the objective environmental situation with the subjective local social background and individual value judgment, providing a new perspective for environmental and social analysis. At the same time, the study of environmental justice considers the environmental demands of different interest groups and the cognitive process of environmental justice, providing new guidance for environmental decision making. In practice, fairness and justice are the important elements of the socialist core value system, and environmental justice is regarded as one of the important development goals. To explore the new path of urban and regional development, the concept of environmental justice should be also integrated into the process of regional coordination and the sustainable development planning.
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