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The concept of fairness as mutual advantage has been developed in the tradition of social contract theory. In this framework society is seen as an enterprise that coordinates the activities of its members in order to advance their interests. All acceptable social rules are in the interest of each member of society. Rules are agreed unanimously – no rules can be enforced against the interest of someone. It is assumed that individuals are basically self-interested and rational. Radical libertarianism claims that individuals do not have to accept any a priori constraints on their behavior. “Libertarianism focuses on negative freedom” (Schokkaert, 1992, p. 89).
A growing population and growing per capita consumption threaten the environment and the natural resource base. Where natural resources are at risk, the livelihoods of many are at risk as well. In May 2006 the Environmental Economics and Natural Resources Group of Wageningen University organized a conference on ‘Poverty, Environment and Natural Resource Use’ with the aim of contributing to a better understanding of the links between poverty and the natural resource base. The state of the environment affects people's living conditions – and poverty affects environmental quality. Environmental policies cannot be designed and natural resources cannot be managed without appropriate consideration of local people's reactions to those policies and management decisions.
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