10th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Dodsworth

Ashley Dodsworth

The Right to a Threshold Level of Environmental Capability

This paper seeks to examine the relationship between rights, capabilities and the environment in order to suggest the concept of a right to a threshold level of environment capability. This examination will start by outlining the capabilities approach as developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, before looking at the ways in which the capability approach can respond to environmental concerns. This latter discussion will focus on the three possible ways of intersection developed so far – classing environmental capability as a central capability in its own right, that environmental protection is implied by the capabilities already developed and the idea of environmental sustainability as a meta-capability that precedes all others, as developed by Breen Holland. The second part of this paper will examine the overlap between rights and capabilities as suggested by the founders of the capabilities approach. I will then suggest that these two concepts could also be linked through the shared focus on thresholds. This will be shown through a discussion of both capability thresholds (as developed by Nussbaum) and then the idea of rights as thresholds. The final section will draw these themes together in order to suggest that the threshold level of each capability should be considered a right in and of itself, and can so be used to ground a right to a set level of environmental capability.