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Human rights and environmental sustainability in the context of globalisation

Woods, Kerri (2007) Human rights and environmental sustainability in the context of globalisation. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis undertakes a sustained engagement with theoretical debates within and between the fields of human rights and environmental sustainability, which, it is argued here, inevitably come together in the context of globalisation. At issue in this thesis are questions about the nature of and rationale for human rights, the necessary and sufficient conditions of environmental sustainability, the impact of globalisation on human rights and environmental sustainability, and the interaction between them. The aim of the thesis is to interrogate a variety of arguments about human rights and environmental sustainability in order to assess their coherence and consistency, and to evaluate competing perspectives. The central questions animating this inquiry are, to what extent can environmental threats to human security be conceptualised as a human rights issue, and do human rights provide an adequate and appropriate framework in terms of which to respond to the environmental impacts of globalisation? The thesis begins by examining the impact of globalisation on human rights and environmental sustainability. There follows, in chapter 3, a detailed analysis of possible justifications of support for universal human rights, looking at philosophical foundations, the idea that there might be an overlapping consensus on human rights, and the idea of human rights as a sentimental education. Chapter 4 focuses on criticisms that have been levelled at the contemporary human rights regime and evaluates a proposed alternative, Thomas Pogge’s idea of an institutional model of human rights. Thereafter the focus of the thesis shifts to environmental sustainability. Firstly, chapter 5 investigates definitions of environmental sustainability and proposes an evaluative framework for assessing different models of economic organisation. Secondly, chapter 6 looks at the political changes that might be appropriate to an environmentally sustainable society by examining green (re-)interpretations of the concepts of citizenship, democracy, and justice. In chapter 7 the two fields of inquiry are reintegrated, firstly by addressing the question of whether rights or sustainability can or should be prioritised at the expense of the other, and secondly by considering the plausibility and merit of the idea of claiming that there are environmental human rights. The conclusion advanced in the thesis is that human rights do not provide a sufficient framework in terms of which to respond to the environmental impacts of globalisation, however, a renewed understanding of human rights, informed by a sense of the social and ecological embeddedness of human life, may be a fruitful feature of an environmentally sustainable society. Moreover, it is argued here that human rights and environmental sustainability share some illuminating features, in that support for each is most coherently justified in terms of a sentimental concern for the fate of others, though informed by a sense of the social and ecological embeddedness of human life. This informed sentimentalism is ultimately held to be a stronger motivation to act in defence of human rights or environmental sustainability than rational self-interest in the context of globalisation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: human rights, environmental sustainability, green political theory, globalisation
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: Berry, Professor Christopher J
Date of Award: 27 November 2007
Depositing User: Miss Kerri-Anne Woods
Unique ID: glathesis:2007-11-27-17
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2007
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:14
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/17

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