The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series
Chapter 1: Introduction
We can all agree that the international community, through legal and other means, needs to pursue both the alleviation of poverty and the protection of the environment. Ending poverty would be to truly respect Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. Protecting the environment is the only way to ensure the survival of this and future generations and to also acknowledge, as stated in Article 1 of the Earth Charter, that ‘all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings.’ The relationship between the alleviation of poverty and the protection of the environment is a complex one. There is every reason to believe that poverty and environmental degradation go hand in hand: extreme poverty, with the need to survive until the next day or the next year, can lead to severe environmental depletion and irreversible damages. In turn, depletion of natural resources by both private and public actors, resources on which communities have relied for their economic, social and cultural well being, can cause a long slide into poverty. All around the world, poverty is found in contaminated lands, near waste sites, and close to polluting industries. This is no mere coincidence (Shelton, Sabzwari and Scott, Cohen and Jáuregui, Paddock). There are, however, situations where alleviation of poverty and the protection of the environment appear to be at odds with one another: when...