Duty and responsibility in ecological citizenship

I endorse Bart van Steenbergen's view that, 'There is one important difference between the environmental movement and other emancipation movements. This difference has to do with the notion of responsibility ... citizenship not only concerns rights and entitlements, but also duties, obligations and responsibilities' (1994: 146). A number of commentators on ecological citizenship agree with this (see e.g. Smith 1998: 99-100; Barry 1999: 126), but such a bare statement prompts two obvious yet important questions: just what are these duties, obligations, and responsibilities, and to whom or what are they owed? It also prompts a third, rather less obvious question, but one that is important as far as 'citizenship' as an idea is concerned. Whatever these duties, obligations, and responsibilities are, and to whomever or whatever they are owed, can they be regarded as obligations of citizenship? [...]

First, then, what are the obligations of ecological citizenship? These follow very obviously from the discussion of ecological non-territoriality. [...] The 'space' of ecological citizenship is the ecological footprint, and [...] the ecological footprints of some members of some countries have a damaging impact on the life chances of some members of other countries, as well as members of their own country. Simply put, then, the principal ecological citizenship obligation is to ensure that ecological footprints make a sustainable, rather than an unsustainable, impact. [...] This formulation also offers an answer to the second question: to whom or to what are the obligations of ecological citizenship owed? Once again the answer flows from the 'ecological non-territoriality' of the previous section. Ecological footprints are an expression of the impact of the production and reproduction of individuals' and collectives' daily lives on strangers near and far. It is these strangers to whom the obligations of ecological citizenship are owed. [Also, are these responsibilities obligations of citizenship?] Obligations might be owed either to fellow-citizens or to the state itself, but even in the former case the obligations of citizenship extend no further than those who are defined as citizens by the constituted political authority in question. Obligations of ecological citizenship, on the other hand, are due to anyone who is owed ecological space. [...] A critical implication of these types of obligation and to whom they are owed is that they contain no explicit expectations of reciprocity. If my ecological footprint is an unsustainable size then my obligation is to reduce it. It would be absurd to ask someone in ecological space deficit reciprocally to reduce theirs. The duty to reduce the size of an overlarge footprint is, however, driven by the correlative right to sufficient ecological space.

My current formulation should make it clear that while the obligations of ecological citizens have a non-reciprocal and asymmetrical character, they are not unlimited. They are owed because of an unjust distribution of ecological space, and they end when that imbalance has been addressed. [...]

In the post-cosmopolitan context it is not so much a question of which virtues are citizenship virtues, as of which kinds of relationships give rise to citizenship obligations. The virtues of post-cosmopolitan citizenship are then those virtues that enable these obligations to be met [and the]

first virtue of ecological citizenship is justice. More specifically, ecologi- >

cal citizenship virtue aims at ensuring a just distribution of ecological r space. In contrast, John Barry has argued that, 'It is relations of harm |

and vulnerability that underpin the community or network within which o ecological stewardship and citizenship operate' (2002: 146). My view S

is that it is relations of systematic ecological injustice that give rise to the obligations of ecological citizenship. Vulnerability is a symptom of injustice rather than that which, in the first instance, generates networks -g of citizenship, and not all relations of vulnerability can be regarded as S relations of citizenship.

So my reference to a 'first' virtue of ecological citizenship is impor-"5 tant and deliberate. With it, I intend to distinguish both between the 'm foundational virtue of ecological citizenship and other virtues that may 15 be instrumentally required by it, and also between virtue as Aristotelian m 'dispositions of character' and political virtue. It is very common to see accounts of ecological virtue expressed in the Aristotelian idiom, but while this may be appropriate in broader contexts, I do not think it works in the specifically political context of citizenship. [...] I agree that 'virtues are central' to green politics - and to ecological citizenship - but I do not think that the 'dispositions of character' [...] are the central virtues of ecological citizenship. The key virtue is, rather, justice - although I entirely agree that certain dispositions of character may be required to meet its demands. [...] For example, Barry's 'sympathy' is a virtue appropriate to the Good Samaritan rather than to the Good Citizen. Importantly, though, this leaves the possibility that sympathy, or other candidates such as care and compassion, might be regarded as ecological citizenship virtues in the second instance. [...] Hartley Dean, for example, writes that, 'An ethic of care - whether it is defined as a feminist or an ecological ethic - provides the crucial link between an abstract principle of co-responsibility and the substantive practice by which we continually negotiate our rights and duties' (2001: 502). [...]

The private realm is a crucial site of citizenship activity for post-cosmopolitan citizenship. This is so for two reasons. First, private acts can have public implications in ways that can be related to the category of citizenship. And second, some of the virtues [...] - care and compassion in particular, with their unconditional and non-reciprocal character - are characteristic of ideal-typical versions of private realm relationships. [...] The private realm is important to ecological citizenship because it is a site of citizenship activity, and because the kinds of obligations it generates and the virtues necessary to meeting those obligations are analogously and actually present in the types of relationship we normally designate as 'private'. Although this is counter-intuitive in respect of the vast bulk of work done on citizenship in general, it is absolutely consistent with what political ecologists take citizenship to be about. [...] For liberals, this politicization of the private sphere will sound an alarm. Mark Smith is surely right to point out that, 'Many basic personal choices which were previously considered inviolable will be subject to challenge' (1998: 99).

[...] And if so, how can liberal states pursue it, given the ground rule of neutrality as far as the good life is concerned?

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