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Justice in the Global Commons: A Framework of Moral Duties for Common-Pool Resources

  • Author(s): McKeon, Kristina Marie Violet
  • Advisor(s): James, Aaron
  • et al.

Justice in the Global Commons:

A Framework of Moral Duties for Common-Pool Resources


K. Violet McKeon

Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy

University of California, Irvine, 2015

Professor A. James, Chair

We live in an unjust world. While one might agree with this statement, presently there is no consensus about what justice in a global context requires. In my dissertation, I argue for a pluralistic conception of justice that can, in the relevant cases, be “grounded” in shared vital resources, like clean drinking water and a stable climate system. I develop a framework of moral and political duties that all humans have when we share a common plight in virtue of these resources, justified given a general moral contractualism like that proposed by Scanlon. The framework implies that many of the reasons presently given for failing to stabilize or conserve resources that people depend upon, or to enact policies that will do so, are not only immoral but also unjust, even in ungoverned contexts. It offers guidance for many (if not most) situations of shared vital resources, without having to appeal to any independent justifications of “rights.” One notable consequence of supplying a moral mechanism by which present people are obligated to sustainably manage resources on an ongoing basis is that future people will also have the resources they need.

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