Community Views of Fairness in Environmental Conflicts: Evidence from Germany and Australia

Elisabeth Kals
Geoffrey J. Syme
Juliane D. Kärcher
Markus M. Müller
Blair E. Nancarrow

DOI: 10.2190/ES.31.2.a


There is a widespread assumption that the way communities view fairness in environmental conflicts is dominated by self-interests, especially in conflicts of interest ("to vote one's pocketbook," "not in my backyard"). This assumption is rarely questioned or empirically tested. Based on theories of psychology of social justice, two studies tested this hypothesis by contrasting motives of self-interest and justice in a German and an Australian dispute. Questionnaire data from both countries (NGermany = 309, NAustralia = 260) equally revealed that a) affected and non-affected people do not make different judgments of what is fair in the conflict and b) overall fairness judgments are not only based on self-interest, but to the same extent on justice considerations. The results have important impacts on theoretical model building as well as planning and decision-making in environmental conflicts.

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