Can species have capabilities? Justice and ecological systems

Kortetmäki, Teea (2016). 'Can species have capabilities? Justice and ecological systems' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

In the face of increasing human impact on the natural world, theorising ecological justice or justice in human–nonhuman relations is more important than ever. One approach to ecological justice that has attracted much recent interest is the expanded or environmental capabilities approach, a discourse of justice first introduced by David Schlosberg (2007). It rests on the core ideas of Martha Nussbaum’s central capabilities approach but expands the community of justice to nonhuman beings and ecological systems.
Applying the capabilities model in ecological justice has invoked questions on the capabilities of ecological systems and collectives. In this paper, I examine whether the notion of capabilities is applicable to species as wholes, assuming that the central principles of the environmental capabilities approach are held plausible. The examination shows that the arguments given for considering ecosystems as capability-possessors and recipients of justice apply to species as well, and hence the approach should include species in the community of justice too. This view gains its support from the way in which integrity can be applied to both ecosystems and species.
Consequently, it can be argued that anthropogenic extinctions constitute the most serious instances of ecological injustice done to species. The idea of justice to species engenders both negative and positive duties of justice, but the expansion of the community of justice does not go without problems: it increases the amount of possible conflicts between different claims of justice and gives rise to a question of how much can be demanded from humans in the name of justice.

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