Research Handbooks in Human Rights series
Edited by Anna Grear and Louis J. Kotzé
Chapter 24: Environmental and human rights in ethical context
There is increasing legal recognition that environmental degradation can result in deprivation of existing human rights, but also that mere recognition of such deprivations is not enough to promote and secure a healthy environment; hence the call for a human right to a decent (or healthy) environment. However, all human activities, including those associated with human rights, occur within ecological settings. This raises the issue of whether environmental ‘rights’ need to be complemented by ‘responsibilities’, either in the form of ecological limitations to human and environmental rights or by recognizing genuine ecological rights (‘rights of nature’). The ecological approach to environmental and human rights remains a crucially important, yet largely unresolved issue of contemporary jurisprudence and constitutionalism. The aim of this chapter is to demonstrate how the influence of ecological thought in environmental ethics is shifting our traditional thinking about human rights and how it is promoting a restructured framework of human rights in an ecological context.
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