Why Environmental Rights should trump Human Rights

Dec 7, 2016Education and Awareness, Uncategorized0 comments

By Michele King

Hear me out here. Human rights day is celebrated on 10th December worldwide to honor 10th Dec 1948, when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Palais de Challoit, Paris after the experience of the Second World War.

Human rights are rights that everyone should have simply because they are human. In 1948, the United Nations defined 30 articles of human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It established universal human rights on the basis of humanity, freedom, justice, and peace.

Ask anyone what their understandings of human rights are and they will quote right to equality, freedom from slavery, women and children’s rights etc. etc. Not many people will refer to the right to an adequate environment and yet Homo sapiens


“”have acquired the power to transform his environment in countless ways and on an unprecedented scale. Both aspects of man’s environment, the natural and the man-made, are essential to his well-being and to the enjoyment of basic human rights – even the right to life itself.”3 W.J.M. Mackenzie

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The Right to …

An adequate environment

In the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972) it appears, however, also as an individual right. The Declaration states that: “Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.

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The Collision of Rights

The right to an adequate environment, is one of the rights colliding with other rights, in a certain sense actually playing the role of a controlling mechanism for the enjoyment of other rights.

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Humans have a duty to …

Protect and improve the environment

Homo sapiens do not only have the right to an adequate environment, but also the duty to protect and improve the environment. They have this responsibility not only towards other individuals or the community in which they live but towards mankind as a whole and even “future generations.”

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If any human activity …

Impairs the environment beyond a certain limit, it should be forbidden

Human rights cannot be enjoyed at all if the environment becomes impaired beyond a certain critical level. Human rights cannot be protected unless the environment people live in is also protected.

The Right to participate

The right to participate, including the right to be informed, in all activities concerning the development of science and technology, as well as economic development, environmental protection, and other fields, is of the utmost importance.

What can you do?

Know your rights and seek out information. There are various forms of participation: make your voice heard in the mass media and social media. Get involved. Sign up to the various associations and movements that actively advocate for the right to sustainable development. Start now. See how you can stay informed https://www.gondwanaalive.org/

For up to date news about human rights, this is a useful link