chapter  2
Rawls on green concerns
Pages 20

Chapter 1 has argued that political liberalism, since the Reformations, has set out to face the conceptual problem of agreement, and even unity, on the shared political ideas of the free and equal citizen. A second question now occupies the green political theorist if they are to consider the implications of what we have called ‘the separation argument’; that is, the abstraction of political justice from green concerns. If the two areas operate in isolation from one another, does a theory of political justice that deals solely with contemporaneous, rational human agents automatically downgrade green concerns to the periphery? This chapter will further explore Rawls’s own justification for this separation, and the particular aspects of his theory that address this central challenge. It will also offer an initial assessment of how far Rawlsian liberalism can proceed along our spectrum (or continuum) of green concerns, from light to dark green, as outlined in the introduction. We are, however, left with a vexing question that if the separation argument is to hold, then to what extent will it inf luence the ideas and behaviours of citizens beyond the OP? Would a politically impartial stance on green concerns encourage an attitude of indifference in a well-ordered society at large – in the ‘background culture’? Put another way, if the main political and economic institutions of a society are unwilling to engage in the controversies surrounding humanity’s relationship to wider nature, or the sustainability of a polity, does it follow that individual citizens themselves in the non-political public and private spheres, are excused from taking green concerns seriously? The key aim of this chapter, therefore, is to highlight the key tenets of Rawls’s own position on green concerns. Further, it is important to start to address the argument, prevalent in the green critique, that his own justification of the separation argument represents a shallow instrumentalist (that is, unenlightened), light green theory of environmental justice in and of itself. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to outline the fact that despite the move to a more freestanding political liberalism, the idea of the ‘wellordered society’ remains, and can be considered as a transpolitical good of intergenerational justice capable of motivating citizens for reasons other then mutual disinterest.