chapter
Introduction
Pages 15

The liberal political theorist John Rawls, despite remaining largely silent on ‘green concerns’, was writing during a time of increasing awareness that the ecological stability of the earth is being compromised by human activity. Rawls’s reluctance to engage with such concerns, however, has not stopped several scholars attempting to ‘extend’, or ‘expand’, his works to incorporate this newfound fear for the ecosystems that support human life. But why Rawls? What is to be gained from developing the ideas of a theorist whose primary aim was to establish a system of justice for contemporaneous, rational, and reasonable citizens of a liberal polity? Immediately, two problems present themselves. Even if we can successfully reconcile Rawlsian liberalism with green concerns, what use is this endeavour for societies facing grave environmental threats? Presumably, Rawls’s theory of justice is seen as an apologia for the theoretical underpinnings of modern liberal polities, and so if his ideas can indeed be ‘greened’, then the inference is that so, too, can a liberal society in the ‘real world’. The literature under review in the following chapters, however, does not make this link clear, predominantly because very vague, and abstract, notions of ‘the’ environmental crisis are used to condemn or condone Rawlsian liberalism. So the second problem, if indeed Rawls’s theory is to be seen as ripe for greening, is to investigate the competing extensionist methodologies employed by green political theorists. The aim of this introduction, then, is to set the scene for how Rawlsian liberalism has come to be embroiled in wider debates regarding the supposed un-ecological implications of liberal thought.