InDebate: The Existential Self and the Politics of Place: Environmental Racism as a Philosophical Problem

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Yoko Arisaka

When we think of the notion of the “self,” we tend to think of “it” as a thing that has internal states, physical characteristics, history, “identity,” relations, and so on. One important feature that is often overlooked is the fact that a living self is, existentially speaking, always placed. I am who I am in a particular place, which may define the language I speak, the culture I am a part of, a particular history that may define my worldview; I am and become who I am through being placed, with its features that make up my surroundings. The place of the self is also its natural environment. I live in a certain climate and environmental conditions—it might be in extreme heat or cold, or with or without clean air and water, etc. The natural environment of the earth provides the ultimate horizon within which all human beings live and survive. If we continuously live in a polluted place, our health becomes compromised. The children grow up sick. Generations suffer bad health effects. In short, our well-being is very much affected by the kind of place we live in. In this short paper I would like to start from the explication of this premise—that our being and flourishing are grounded in place—and bring our attention to a newly emerging field of study, environmental racism. Weiterlesen