Volume 44, Number 172,
January-March 2013
Mining as a Development Factor in The Sierra Juárez in Oaxaca:
an Ethical Evaluation
Mario Enrique Fuente and David Barkin
REDEFINING SUSTAINABILITY: THE ETHICAL PERSPECTIVE ( ...continuation )

In a purely economic sense associated with the neoliberal model, the term “globalization” refers to a new phase of capitalism that arose at the end of the twentieth century. It is a truly global capitalism, which has given rise to profoundly unjust social relationships and has had consequences, excluding millions of human beings from the benefits of wealth. As such it is unacceptable from an ethical point of view (Olivé, 2004: 19).

From this point of view, it is fundamental not only to question the methodological criteria, but also the epistemic premises resulting from economic rationality that reproduces and justifies orthodoxy and its model of society and the social-nature relationship.

With the topic seen from this direction and context (neoliberal), insertion in the debate goes beyond technical (technological) approaches and even the conservationists to incorporate an ethical approach, and as such epistemic: the discovery and availability of knowledge (including social practices) that contribute to understanding and deploying processes of social appropriation of nature linked to greater articulation between social and environmental responsibility, between distributional justice (social) and eco-justice (environmental).

There are a variety of diverse themes related to the fields of environmental economics and political ecology that can be derived from this perspective and are relevant to the work of this study. Among these are the issues of distribution conflicts, community practices and the language used to evaluate nature and inter-culturalism. Environmental economics demands the development of methodological proposals that incorporate ecological judgment regarding the biophysical possibilities (like negentropic economics) and limitations inherent to the idea of economic growth, but also requires ethical and historical judgments regarding the rules of cost-benefit distribution derived from the processes of social appropriation of nature (Martínez-Alier, 2004; Burkett, 2006; Barkin, 2008; Fuente, 2008; Leff, 2008; Barkin, Fuente, Tagle, 2012).

The dimension of distributional environmental conflict calls for a link between the redefining of sustainability and the political power angle of its relationship to establish the use of a certain language to value nature. That is, it is not only about evaluating projects as a function of cost-benefit criteria reduced to a monetary unit. As such, there is the need to incorporate an ethical dimension of justice (social and environmental) when examining the increasing process of exclusion as well as community rights, but also the valuation of practices that favor an alternative option to resolve the economic-environmental distribution generated by productive projects or extraction.

From this perspective, the ethical approach to sustainability leads to the topic of combating social exclusion and efforts to minimize distributional conflicts, as well as promoting equity and defending the rights of social property. It is precisely the category of distributional environmental conflict that contributes to understanding problems related to environmental externalities and responses to social practices. In this way, regarding the notion of distributional environmental conflicts, we realize the following:

The unequal load of ecological costs and their effects on the variety of emerging environmentalism, including movements that resist neoliberalism, compensate ecological damage or want environmental justice...includes extra-economic processes (ecological and political) that link environmental economics with political ecology, together with the concept of economic distribution (Leff, 2004: 256).

Based on what is described above, then, social practices (community) that confront exclusion processes are identified, from that perspective, as praxis; in other words, knowledge put into practice, but also the emancipating political practice that will provide an epistemological pillar of the theory (Sánchez Vázquez, 2003). As a function of this praxis, there is a different (world)view of the processes of social appropriation of nature and they are identified as epistemic perspectives, as has been indicated and described by other authors with the notion of “knowledge dialogue” (Leff, 2004), “traditional knowledge” (Toledo and Barrera, 2008) or elements of “post-normal science” (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 2000).

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Published in Mexico, 2012-2018 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 194 July-September 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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