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Justifying and Juxtaposing Environmental Justice and Sustainability: Towards an Inter-Generational and Intra-Generational Analysis of Environmental Equity in Public Administration

PAQ, Vol. 39 No. 1, (2015)

Traditional pillars of public administration have included the guiding values of efficiency and economy. Increasingly, scholars have engaged in social equity as the third pillar of public administration (Frederickson, 2010). Such an analysis engages questions around “who” benefits from economic and efficiency realizations in the course of public administration practice. Going a step further, public administration in the context of the 21st century necessitates drawing the net further to consider other values in the course of development decisions, and in particular in terms of the considerations around the increasing focus on environmental impacts. This paper considers how environmental equity can be understood in the context of difficult urban development decisions, particularly in the consideration of the permitting or siting of noxious land uses. Towards that end, this paper examines two leading and distinctly different frames around environmental equity: sustainability and environmental justice. In practice, contradictions between sustainability and environmental justice are often predicated on differing equity considerations within the environmental movement. Rather than focusing on trade-offs between environmental and economic growth values, a more rigorous discussion of equity may bolster the contemporary environmental movement through a fusion of inter- and intra-generational equity of environmental considerations within the urban development process. Through a structured examination of what equity means to environmental decision-making broadly and the specific construction of such movements’ endemic justice frames, this paper seeks to identify common theoretical ground within the environmental movement by specifically building on justice theory conceptualized by such scholars as Amartya Sen (1999), John Rawls (1971), and others that build on their work.

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