Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability
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Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability

Kerri Woods

Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability challenges the assumed harmony between human rights norms and the demands of environmental sustainability, by addressing conceptual, normative, and political questions surrounding the interaction between the two.
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Kerri Woods


1. The industrial revolution in Europe and North America took 200 years or so, while the period of colonialism began in the 1500s and continued until the late 1900s. Globalization, in contrast, if dated to the aftermath of the Second World War, has been a period of massive change in 50 or 60 years (Howard-Hassmann 2005, pp. 8–13). Rare exceptions survive. North Korea, for example, remains isolated, but the majority of states that were identified as communist during the Cold War have made, or are in the process of making, a transition to a capitalist economy, and countries that still identify as communist, such as China and Laos, whilst retaining one party systems, have introduced capitalist enterprise. Though Smith envisaged capital staying within the community, whereas today capital is rather more mobile (Mander 2003, p. 113). Note that I do not assume that environmental problems are unique to a globalized economy. The pre-industrial economy of Easter Island was clearly environmentally unsustainable. My interest in the environmental problems associated with economic globalization is due to the contemporary dominance of neoliberal economics and the environmental problems that these policies currently cause. At the time of writing it is not clear what will be the long-term effects of the global recession that hit markets in 2008, but though there is much media debate about unscrupulous lending practices, there is less evidence of a significant shift away from the policies discussed here. The precautionary principle, briefly stated, is the idea that given a...

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