Environmental Responsibili-ties and a New Concept of Citizenship: An Intellectual Approach
- Mahir Fisunoglu, Ph.D.
Department of Economics, «ukurova University
PO Box 393, Adana, Turkey 01330
Tel/fax: +90 (322) 338 6574
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 8 (1998), 172-173

The concept of citizenship has deep roots in Western political thought. Although the concept has changed throughout the time, the integration of justice and membership of a society (or community) has always become an important part of Western life. In recent years, however, new political developments in the world have caused a reinterpretation of the concept of citizenship. Indeed, the voters' reluctance to elections, and rise of nationalism, for example, make solidarity between citizens a questionable concept. This is particularly important because of some voluntary works such as environmental protection very much depend on such solidarity and cooperation. It could be accepted that, at least some efforts to protect the environment, have failed in recent years. This makes it particularly important to review the concept of citizenship. The goal of this paper is to make an attempt, to search contributions and to generate a base for debate toward the notion of citizenship in the point of environment. Since it is a preliminary attempt, some points have not been clarified yet. It is obvious that the form of political organization demands new ideas and contributions.

The first observation is that justice in a modern society is a necessary condition, not sufficient. In order to reach a more comprehensive view, the quality and behavior of citizens should be analyzed. Indeed, after centuries of debates, one can discuss normative words on justice. But the quality of citizenship is a different concept. As far as the environment is concerned, the classical norm of citizenship is not sufficient for reactions to some environmental issues. The second observation is that although there is "enough" awareness of environmental issues in Western societies, there are missing points. Western citizenship is concentrated on micro and local environmental issues, i.e., it thinks "local". This is an extension of the classical thought of citizenship. But environmental issues have become transnational, i.e., widespread effects should be taken into consideration, e.g., acid rain, river pollution, ozone depletion, extinction of species,... No one can claim that these are local issues. The classical Western citizenship, however, has shown insufficient reaction to these developments. Most of the source of pollution comes from the technologies developed in and exported from the Western countries and despite regulations, social and political pressures, these technologies have been used in the Western world. If the reactions increase, companies relocate their firms into a less developed country, which does not have the same strict regulations and which would happy with the industry. The only reaction in the first country is lost of jobs because of ongoing firm. However, the same pollution effects have been transferred from one country to another. Developing nations are "less" concerned about environmental issues. This does not mean these nations do not pay attention to environment, but some other issues have priority over environment. These priorities are more wealth, a growing economy, and more employment which are very understandable. The "bad goods" produced in these countries could be exported to the all over world, although there are some regulations exist in international trade, such as environmentally unfriendly goods are not exportable. However, these regulations have not been accepted and ratified by all countries. At least countries which have not ratified these international regulations make trade with each others. Economic sanctions and similar international reactions are not enough in this sense.

Should the problem is accepted as above, the solution is a review of the concept of citizenship. Particularly, citizens of the Western world have more responsibility towards environment. Despite observations made above, they have the historical channels to show reactions. Democratic systems, media, political parties, wide non-governmental organizations make these countries to express their reactions toward their governments and parliaments. This reaction should be centered around a global awareness of environmental issues. This is not an easy process. There are political and economic repercussions of such reactions. It simply means more carefully determined consumption (which brings a decline in economic growth), more careful trade relations with less developed nations in terms of environmentally friendly/unfriendly goods (which means a possible decline in international trade and puts less developed countries in a more harmful position). Therefore, developed and less developed nations will "share" a cost. But, the question is that are they ready for it? At this point, the concept of "new citizenship" should be considered. A new citizen is responsible not only in the society in which he/she lives, but also to the whole of humanity. This includes, for example a reaction and a demand for reducing the poverty in the world, or a reaction and a quick action against a civil war in another country which had become a human tragedy in the recent year in Bosnia-Hersegova and Kosova,.. Therefore, environmental issues become a part of other issues which all citizens of world should interested in. There are trends in behavioral citizenship in this direction. But political organizations are either non-existent or weak. The new quality of citizens should depend on the ability of politically organized in above framework. The political organization should not be in the customary way. The framework for this political organization should be outlined as follows: a redefinition of solidarity in the society in the direction of more cooperation, generation of more resources to allocate, a change in educational attitudes, a desire in citizens for evaluation..

As can been seen, this is a complicated issue in terms of a new approach. The existing literature and political thoughts have some clues, but all are incomplete. However, an organized action is inevitable in order to understand the roots of environmental issues. This subject, particularly the question of how political organizations should be formed, opens the debate.


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