The duties of ecological citizenship

Ecological citizenship is characterized not by rights but by the self-imposed duties of the citizen. Duties are commitments that require the free exercise of the virtues to identify and perform them. Liberal theories of citizenship tend to focus on the granting and maintaining of rights;

civic republican views focus on a deeper reciprocity between rights and j q duties. Ecological citizenship is different from the former in focusing its concern on duties, not rights, and it is different from the latter in being ft nonterritorial. This claim can be challenged on the grounds that citizen- n ship is necessarily territorial, thereby making a nonterritorial citizenship | a contradiction in terms. This is a powerful point. Nevertheless, we have y

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^ to act as if (at the very least) we have global citizenship responsibilities

ยก2 for the simple reason that environmental problems are not locally cono x tainable. And we can go further by suggesting that if our responsibilities "o extend as far as the bounds of our community and if our community is increasingly globalized both politically and commercially, then the claim that citizenship is nonterritorial in the traditional sense seems a reasonable one to make. Ecological citizenship thus conceived embraces duties that are not limited in scope to time or place, and that are voluntarily self-imposed. The source of the duties is not the product of a reciprocal, contractual, social set of arrangements. Rather, it is the outcome of a recognition of the fact that we are already affecting (or have affected) others. The leading proponent of the view just articulated, Dobson, suggests that 'while this is a citizenship with international and intergenerational dimensions, its responsibilities are asymmetrical. Its obligations fall on those, precisely, with the capacity to "always already" act on others' (2003, 49-50). Those affected, that is, feel the heavy tread of others' ecological footprint; relationships thus arise with those on whom it impacts. These impacts will be asymmetrical because of the differential size of ecological footprints. As Dobson notes, 'The relevant cleavage is that between "globalizing" and "globalized" individuals, where the former is taken to refer to those whose action can "impact at a distance," and the latter to those whose actions cannot' (115).

In short, ecological citizenship is not so much about rights as about obligations. Bur can there be self-imposed duties without corresponding rights? That depends. Duties and rights are not necessarily symmetrical. In this they differ from reciprocally defined concepts such as winner and loser and winning and losing, each of which implies the other. Of course it is true that if I have a right, someone else (or some agency) has a corresponding duty; and again, if I, as a citizen, have rights, we might expect that I will be required to assume the duties of citizenship (this view would be typical of a civic republican perspective). But if I have a duty, it does not necessarily follow that there is a corresponding right. There is no difficulty in saying that we have duties toward people, animals, or things where we don't suppose that they have a corresponding right, merely that they are the object of our dutiful concern. In eco-citizenship, then, it might be said that we have duties to other people; they in turn have corresponding rights. But should we understand this literally or rhetorically? Everyone, as claimed above, has an equal right to an equal share of environmental goods. It seems reasonable to proceed to the conclusion that everyone therefore has an equal duty to maintain those rights or at least not to act so as to knowingly violate them. This posi tion could, however, leave us with moral demands that are impossible to fulfill if it is taken to imply that we should always be acting positively so as to maintain rights, and it is wise to avoid making unreasonable and excessive demands. It might be that not a great deal is lost if we adopt the position that we have duties toward those who have had less than their share of the world's environmental goods - a duty that does not require reciprocity. But this is a moot point: to deny the applicability of rights in such a context might be taken to imply the relative lack of importance of the duties thus specified. On a related point, consider the nonhuman natural world. I suggest that we have a duty toward it, but that it has no rights per se - rights being conceptually difficult to ascribe to beings incapable, even in principle, of being part of a rights-making and rights-maintaining community. [...]

Ecological citizenship comprises the ecological duties together with the virtues appropriate to their fulfillment. This includes the duty of deliberating on duties: we have a duty to ask what our duty is. And even where our duty seems obvious - for example, to reduce the size of our environmental footprint - we should still question this and ask exactly how it might be translated into specific actions. Here, we should perhaps distinguish between duties as general goals or aspirations and specific duties appropriate to particular occasions. The latter cannot be determined in advance even where the general features are known. A concrete duty only becomes actual at the moment of acting, and the content of that duty at that point is a combination of the circumstances, ideals, principles, character, and virtues of the actor.2 An eco-virtue is an internally motivated ecological thoughtfulness leading to action. The virtue of rational deliberation, avoiding the twin vices of insufficient thoughtful-ness and too much thought at the expense of action, is essential to the proper formulation and understanding of our eco-duties. For example, the general duty to reduce the size of our eco-footprint is refined both by investigating expedient practical responses, and through reflection on our place in the world and differential use of its resources. An eco-duty is derived from an assessment of the size of our eco-footprint and the extent of our departure from equality in the way we tread the earth. Ecological duties are therefore not equal; they vary between individuals and between groups and nations. Those who have already consumed (and j

continue to consume) most have correspondingly greater duties.

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