Why should ecosystem services be governed to support poverty alleviation? Philosophical perspectives on positions in the empirical literature

Ina Lehmann, Adrian Martin, Janet A. Fisher

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In light of trade-offs related to the allocation of ecosystem services we investigate the prevalent norms that are drawn upon to justify why ecosystem governance should prioritise poverty alleviation. We are specifically concerned with poverty alleviation because we consider this an urgent problem of justice. We review empirical literature on social trade-offs in ecosystem services governance in order to identify the prevalent conceptions of justice that inform scholarly assessments of current practice. We find that empirical studies do present specific notions of justice as desirable benchmarks for ecosystem services governance but that they rarely attempt to spell out the precise meaning of these notions or what makes them desirable. For those notions of justice that we identify in this literature - sufficientarianism, egalitarianism and participatory approaches - we draw on philosophical justice literature in order to better articulate the normative arguments that could support them and to be more precise about the kind of actions and expectations that they invoke. Moreover, we point to some striking normative silences in the ecosystem services literature. We conclude that the ecosystem services justice discourse would benefit from more conceptual clarity and a broader examination of different aspects of justice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-273
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Economics
Early online date5 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Ecosystem services
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Justice
  • Sufficientarianism
  • Egalitarianism
  • Participation

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