Environmental Rights are the protection of natural resources; the access to and use of natural resources; and how the access to and use of these resources affects surrounding populations, as well as the resources themselves.
Environmental rights are an extension of the basic human rights that mankind requires and deserves. In addition to having the right to food, clean water, suitable shelter, and education, having a safe and sustainable environment is paramount as all other rights are dependent upon it. The desire to ensure access for all of Earth’s inhabitants to this essential standard of living is the primary concern of Environmental rights.
Beyond equal distribution and access to clean and sustainable resources, Environmental Rights also include an additional obligation from those in the industrialized nations. It requires us to act responsibly in our own use of natural resources, and to regulate our levels of consumption in a more equitable manner.
Due to the “modern world’s” value on material goods, most of the worlds inhabitants lack these basic human and environmental rights. For now, the brunt of the environmental consequences are experienced by people outside of the realm of consumerism.
The increasing rate of consumption and waste production in the modern world has a profound effect on those in developing nations. The staggering amount of waste produced, due to rapid levels of consumption, finds its way to impoverished nations for discarding, where lax environmental regulations allow for cheaper disposal.
For example, an increasing amount of waste produced in the modern world comes in the form of e-waste, or electronic waste. This growing mass of discarded cell phones, laptops, monitors, and tablets creates a heavy environmental burden due to the bevy of toxic chemicals released when they are improperly disposed of. And, as is often the case, they are shipped away for disposal.
Lessening the imminent environmental and societal problems will take a massive change in how we interact with the world and with each other. It will require us to examine the economic relationships we have with one another and what the costs and benefits are for all parties concerned.
It isn’t simply a matter of finding a better place to dump waste and vowing to use less. Environmental Rights are also concerned with the protection of natural resources; the access to and use of natural resources; and how the access to and use of these resources affects surrounding populations, as well as the resources themselves.
The World Resources Institute, or WRI, has been working on similar problems for over three decades. They have produced a short video explaining how responsible land use can be mutually beneficial while also supporting the environment.
In 2008 Ecuador became the first country to recognize the rights of nature in their constitution. It takes the concept of Environmental Rights to the next logical conclusion by bestowing rights unto nature itself.
“Rather that treating nature as property under the law, Rights for Nature articles acknowledge that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.”
The passing of the Rights for Nature law in Ecuador was the inspiration for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, an organization working to establish legal rights for the Earth’s ecosystem worldwide.
The Pachamama Alliance is a strong supporter of the organization. Through the Pachamama Journeys we have worked with many of the indigenous tribes not only involved in the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, but also with those who worked to pass the Rights for Nature laws in Ecuador, where the Pachamama Journeys take place.