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Restorative justice and the BP catastrophe

Jun 30, 2010

from Carolyn Raffensperger's entry on Science & Environmental Health Network:

The BP disaster demands justice.  People are looking for asses to kick, ways to make BP–or the government—pay for their failures.  Some have argued that we are all to blame because we use fossil fuels. Others argue that the oil industry is solely liable because they were negligent, under-prepared and greedy. These are all demands for a kind of justice that requires retribution. Punish the perps. I share the rage but I think this catastrophe calls for another larger kind of justice. Restorative Justice.

Restorative Justice is a theory of justice that “emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by unjust behavior.”

The focus of restorative justice is to heal relationships, and make the victim whole. In the case of the oil hemorrhage in the Gulf the list of victims (or future plaintiffs, if you will) is long. The Ocean herself, all the sea creatures, the residents of the Gulf, and future generations, have suffered unspeakable damage from the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Restorative justice would assign blame as a way to allocate responsibility for the actions necessary to restore the environment, to restore all the relationships that are woven into the Ocean and coast. All of them.

Many key voices have called for the precautionary principle to be employed so that something like this never happens again.  Essentially the principle is an ethic of refraining from doing harm.  It is another expression of the Golden Rule that says, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”   This ethic is reflected in the concept of Restorative Justice.  How should we behave when the damage has already happened?  First we apply the precautionary principle to prevent any more harm and then we restore the environment so the cascade of damage can be stopped.

Read the whole entry.

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Art Shofley and Laura Steiman
Art Shofley and Laura Steiman says:
Jul 01, 2010 05:13 PM

BP is a big offender but it does not let any of us off the hook. It is a tragedy that affects us all, right down from the top of the food chain to the smallest organism. Maybe it will be a platform to help us resolve issues as to how we can take care of the Earth.

Lisa Rea
Lisa Rea says:
Jul 04, 2010 11:09 PM

I am in absolute agreement that BP should be held accountable directly for the oil spill, along with other associated companies, to repair the harm caused. Of course, the catastrope is far from over but it has been my view that from day one this is an example where <br />restoraive justice can be applied. <br /> <br />Many are in need of &quot;restoration,&quot; in some form: lives were lost (11), jobs have been lost (and the potential for future work), and wildlife and habitat have been lost. All of these impacts are severe. Some think that restorative justice applies to criminal justice systems only but this is indeed a case where it needs to be applied. <br /> <br />Lawmakers should take note. <br /> <br />Lisa Rea <br />California <br /> <br />

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