I recently wrote a review for an introductory philosophy text on climate justice. I thought it was a good book. The only criticism of it that I raised felt somewhat unfair, and hypocritical, since it is really a criticism that applies to the book’s field rather than the book itself – and to myself as somebody who works within this field. Namely, that discussions of climate justice in analytic philosophy (of the kind that I was schooled in, at least) have a tendency to be problematically insular, or even exclusionary. My worry is that a lot of the literature I read on climate justice is written by people like me, and (implicitly or explicitly) addressed to people like me. Roughly speaking: academics working in the tradition of analytic ethics and political philosophy; writing in English; located in Europe, North America, or Australia; and relatively privileged in terms of their resources, opportunities for consumption, and low vulnerability to climate change.
As I said, this criticism feels hypocritical because I fear that it applies just as well to my own work. In the review, I stated that climate justice debates need to be inclusive; and, in particular, that they should not just involve people in a position of relative advantage, discussing what ‘they’ ought to do about climate change for the sake of more vulnerable others. But I don’t have many suggestions for how to achieve such inclusion. I’m not even sure who needs to be including who, here; or who gets to say where the climate justice debate is really taking place. Is it a debate that philosophers need to open? Or a debate that philosophers need to ask permission to enter?
My worries along these lines remain pretty inchoate. They are bound up with difficult questions about social location; the individuation of different fields and traditions of thought; and the proper role, subjects and impacts of academic theorising. So I can’t fully spell out what I think the problem is, how it can be fixed, or how important it is in the grand scheme of things. But I would be really interested in hearing any suggestions for how to identify or address parochialism in thinking about climate justice.