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Inégalités écologiques, territoires littoraux & développement durable

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Philippe Deboudt

Abstract: Ecological inequalities in the coastal zone

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1Environmental inequality can be measured and described in terms of distribution of environmental bads and vulnerability to their impacts (pollution, flooding etc.), distribution of and ability to access environmental goods (green space, healthy food etc.), creation of environmental bads (e. g. resource consumption, pollution and waste generation) access, influence on and participation in decision-making processes. Many socio-economics studies show the important unbalanced development of coastal territories, notably between coastal fringe and back country. A land pressure is therefore translated by a tendency to social segregation in coastal areas, driving to a reduction of the permanent habitat and to the progressive exclusion from the least easy social population. The policies of preservation of the natural heritage increased the quality of life indirectly in the margin of the protected sites and therefore had as «wicked effect «to contribute to this gentrification of the coastal zone. Paradoxically, these preserved areas allow today to restrict ecological inequality, because they guarantee free access to an important number of natural coastal sites. The notion of ecological inequality invites to reconsider the articulation between social and environmental aspects: What are the consequences of the preservation of the natural heritage in coastal zone on populations, their insertion in the space, the access to the coastal region? What are the consequences of processes procreated by attraction (littoralisation)? A team of geographers, sociologists, ecologists and lawers conducted a research about ecological inequalities in coastal zone and their relations with social inequalities. The research was financed by the French Ministry of Sustainable Development and Public Works in 2006-2008. The authors worked to analyze the difficulties linked to integrating the priorities of natural heritage preservation in the coastal zones and those linked to maintaining the social equilibrium in the coastal zones through the implementation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management. Cases studies are located in two parts of the French coastline: The North of France (Côte d’Opale, French coast of eastern English Channel) and the coastline of the Marseille metropolitan area (Mediterranean coastline). The authors examine the relationship between the socio-urban dimension and the environmental dimension in the construction of social and ecological inequalities. The research helps to identify the conceptualization and methodology for a definition and assessment of ecological inequalities. Conclusion of this work discusses the contrasting perspectives of the geographical and sociological approaches act to expand the notion of ecological inequality. What challenges are presented for the environmental and social sciences by the assessment and evaluation of ecological inequalities?

© Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2010

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