Copyright (c) 1996 Columbia Human Rights Law Review
Columbia Human Rights Law Review
ARTICLE: IN PURSUIT OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS: COMMENTARY ON THE DRAFT DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
27 Colum. Human Rights L. Rev. 487
by Neil A.F. Popovic*
I. Introduction: What Environmental Human Rights Are And Why They Matter
In the global village of the new millennium, the environment is everyone's backyard. Damage to the environment diminishes quality of life--most immediately for those directly affected, and in the long term, for everyone. Already marginalized sectors of society tend to suffer first and they tend to suffer most, but ultimately, no one can escape the human consequences of environmental degradation. Human society cannot function independent of the natural environment.
The precise contours of the relationship between humanity and nature are somewhat elusive, although modern science provides sufficient insight into phenomena such as global climate change and atmospheric ozone depletion to make it clear that people play more than a spectator's role. But policy makers and others who frame the relationship in terms of an irreconcilable tension between developmental prerogatives and environmental prerogatives--e.g., jobs versus trees--set up an unnecessary cleavage. A human-centered approach, for all its biological arrogance, exposes the fallacy of this split and demonstrates the pointlessness of treating people and the environment as opposing sides in an ongoing battle.
The reality is that fouling the environment does not make the world more hospitable for human civilization. It might increase the comfort level of a select few who derive short term economic benefits from disrupting the environment, but even for that select few, the short-term benefits reaped from environmental degradation pale in comparison to the long-term impact of stripping the environment of its productive capacity. When there is ...
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