Edited by Paul Martin, Sadeq Z. Bigdeli, Trevor Daya-Winterbottom, Willemien du Plessis and Amanda Kennedy
Chapter 5: Human rights and the environment
The protection of the environment should be a priority on both the individual and state level. The M_ori proverb set out above describes a link between people and the environment that is both intrinsic and interdependent. Humans have the power to protect or destroy the environment. Yet it is also the environment that ultimately sustains the earth’s population. The importance of the environment to human well-being, health and ultimately survival is self-evident. We rely on the environment for food, air, water and mineral resources, not to mention for its natural beauty. The first part of this chapter will consider whether there is already a human right to an environment of quality and, if not, whether existing human rights adequately address environmental issues. Following this, it will examine the arguments for and against an environmental human right. In the second part of the chapter I will discuss the special relationship between indigenous peoples and the environment. I will then briefly address the issues relating to environmentally displaced or disadvantaged persons. The chapter concludes by examining the contents of any human right to a quality environment, should it be considered desirable.
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