Institutionalisation of Political Parties: Comparative Cases. Edited by Robert Harmel and Lars G. Svasand

Freedom and Ecological Limits

Environmental Policy
Climate Change
Jorge Pinto
University of Minho
Jorge Pinto
University of Minho

Most of the discussions about the state of the environment assume that we currently live in some sort of sustainable world; taking the planetary boundaries as a unit of measure, this is hardly the case. Thus, getting out of the unsustainability that we live in respecting Earth’s limits is of primal importance and the concept of freedom might offer good answers.

When discussing the ecological challenge, freedom is hardly a topic. There are, nevertheless, three points that show how freedom and ecology can be connected: 1) attacks on the individual freedom are often used to justify the opposition to strong ecological measures; 2) freedom (or its lack) are present in the discourses in case of ecological catastrophe; 3) other aspects such as rights and justice have not proven efficient regarding the ecological challenge.

Accepting that freedom is an important topic regarding the ecological challenge, what concept of freedom is better prepared to offer the answers to that challenge? We will compare and confront the liberal view of freedom as non-interference with the republican view of freedom as non-domination and their relation with the ecological limits.

Literature on the links between environment and liberalism or republicanism is not extensive, despite the former being dominant as a political theory and the latter having a large set of common aspects with green political theory. The text will focus on the ecological limits that ensure sustainability and assess if freedom will always be negatively impacted by such limits or if freedom can actually serve to justify those restrictions.
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"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin

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