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Cover Issues in Political Theory

14. The Environment  

Simon Caney

This concluding chapter addresses the normative issues raised by the environment. The environment includes the earth's crust, soil, and natural resources; the atmosphere; all the earth's water; and the biosphere. Human activity has a profound impact on the environment. Indeed, many of the activities that humans engage in — activities which often serve important human interests and goals — result in environmental degradation. Persons depend on the environment in many ways: for their food, health, and for many of their goals in life. As such, humans face a problem when people impact on the environment to such an extent that it undercuts people's capacity to enjoy the standard of living to which they are entitled. Thus, a just account of the environment will take into account both the fact that people have legitimate interests which involve using the environment and the fact that there must be limits on people's environmental impacts.