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Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna
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Object: The aim of the project is to define what does the concept of an “adequate environment” for human life mean and what kind of implications follow from its hypothetical assumption as a core concept in environmental culture. Purposes of the research: Looking for a rich and articulated concept of “adequate environment” based on a comprehensive consideration of what human needs are; Arguing the relevance of a geographical and anthropological approach in order to properly investigate the relation between humans and places, as the core relation of environmental thinking; Identifying a stable foundation for environmental culture, sufficiently shared and liable to support claims and standings at international level. Framework: The concept of an “adequate environment” was formulated in the U.N. Report of 1994 by Mme Ksentini, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment. It was the first international instrument that comprehensively described the environmental dimension of established HR and proposed a juridical protection of an hypothetical environmental right. Since then several comments followed the Ksentini’s Report. The concept of “adequate environment”, in fact, somebody thought, seemed to reformulate existing rights (as life and health) in the environmental dimension, so there was no need for new HR explicitly devoted to environmental protection: on the other hand, it was considered excessively wide (and complex) the range of environmental problems to be faced for a juridical protection of an hypothetical environmental right. Anyway, in the Ksentini’s Report (and generally in U.N. declarations) an “adequate environment” is considered as one providing the fundamental needs of human flourishing: the right to healthy living and working conditions, the rights to preserve natural and cultural heritage and the guarantee of participation in democratic processes. Notwithstanding international covenants on environmental protection and habitat preservation declare in principle the rightness of the former statements, environmental relevance for human life, for social assets and for planet natural balance is concretely interpreted as a vague common sense affirmation, without any really significant consequences. Environmental care is used as a mantra or a captatio benevolentiae in the preamble of international official acts, but is quite often subject to weakness of enforcement structures, budget constraints, derogations and market-place rules. In my opinion, while we try to face the environmental issues only with a juridical or managerial approach, we forget the key-point. Frequently the problem is not the lack of environmental legislation but the lack of a shared and well-rooted environmental culture: it is not rare that people do not stand for an environmental crime because they don’t consider it a crime and hardly see its consequences. The difficult to implement environmental rights is strictly related to the difficult to find a convincing “justification philosophy” for it. If, according with U.N. view, we go on defining the environmental adequateness as a thin concept or an additional concept of political and civil liberties, we will merely regard individual claims for economic needs in term of consumption bundles, while the culture becomes an empty hull and the society becomes a trivial aggregate of individual indifferences. Thus, environmental issues appear for what they really are: a cultural problem, primarily related to epistemological and anthropological view, secondly to political, social and economic affairs and, at the end, to law and managerial arrangements. In my research project I assume the concept of “adequate environment” as a key concept of environmental culture strengthening I’m looking for and the cultural geography as the proper approach to investigate it. In fact, I assume that an “adequate environment” should be defined in a more rich sense, not only considering the material needs of human beings (as in the U.N. reports) but also the symbolic value of the natural, artificial and social environment. Therefore, the concept of environmental protection could be seen as one related to natural wealth but also to ecological and cultural means that allow people to pursue their cultural aspiration. It is possible to elaborate a more demanding view of adequateness (rather than the thin view provided by U.N. reports), which refers to the connection between specific places and cultural systems and considers the different ethnocentric perspectives of what is –or should be- the environment. I wonder how the anthropological and geographical researches on this topic can contribute in the definition of the relation between environment and cultural systems, and in the definition of the identity through the situatedness of bodies experiences. Individuals create their Umwelt: it means that they structure their rational and emotional life in connection with the living space and that ecological changes affect their mental (over than in physical) structure. Globalisation implies a conceptual and operative modification of the “distance” representation and a new definition of economic, politic and cultural boundaries that overlap geographical borders. The dematerialization of experience and the lNGO distance effects of environmental damages produce a radical modification of the space concept and the emergence of different logical approaches to humans-environment relation. When individual loses places, she loses her own identity, her history and her imagination, striving to take roots in an “absence of place”. On the contrary, if places, environment, society turn to be part of the identity construction of the subject and groups, the care for them comes without planning it. The building up of individual or community structure without considering their environmental roots is impossible because the identity construction is, in a broad sense, rooted into the environment. In order to analyse to connectivity should be enlarged the boundaries of thought and enhanced our ability to think in dialogue (and perhaps in empathy) with other beings and places. Connection is a way of reasoning that leads to commitment and requires to decentre (even not to abandon) Cartesian rationality in favour of a more inclusive set of logic and different representation forms (such as non-linear forms). A more rich concept of “adequate environment” can deeply modify the political and philosophical view at the base of international approach to HR, in the frame of minimalist vs maximalist debate. If the claim for an “adequate environment” is interpreted as an individual right, according to the liberal tradition of HR, it would prefigure the needs for a very broad protection of too many aspects of life, resulting, at the very end, too extended to be really protect. If everything becomes a right, nothing is a right anymore. Considering environmental claim as a right matter might lead several technical problems, that is why I think it is necessary to define, at a basic level, what should be interpreted as environmental adequateness, what influence has the environment in the building of human identity, in social relationships and in cultural systems. As a consequence, the political approach based on a solid environmental culture could be the proper one for the spreading and implementation of environmental protection and human dignity respect.

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