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Security of the person, peace of mind: a precautionary approach to environmental uncertainty

Lynda M Collins

Keywords: Rio; precautionary principle; environmental risk; security of the person; Aamjiwnaang; psychological integrity; human rights

This article assesses the evolution of precautionary environmental human rights in the twenty years since Rio, with a focus on security of the person. In particular, the author argues that where there is evidence of a significant environmental threat to human health, coupled with scientific uncertainty regarding the existence, mechanism, or scope of the risk involved, the security of the person of exposed individuals is violated. Taking a precautionary approach to security of the person, and recognizing the integral role of psychology in human wellbeing, the author argues that the requirement to live daily with uncertainty regarding the safety of such fundamentals as air, water and soil violates the psychological integrity of affected communities, and amounts to an infringement of security of the person as protected in both national constitutions and international human rights instruments.

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