Should Nature have constitutionally protected rights equal to Human rights and can these rights be enforced effectively?
Environmental and Social Justice
Despite economic, political, or social differences, most people recognize that nature is a valuable “collective good.” Yet, this recognition does not mean that everybody agrees that nature should be granted rights. Even those who think that nature has inherent rights do not readily agree on who must decide how nature’s resources are distributed nor do they agree in what amount or to what extent the division is fair. These disagreements, in turn, have led to legal agreements, the establishment of regulations and allegations of rights violations. The rights discourse has also gone through many changes from seeing the environment as an “object” to be used and disposed of for human benefit, seeing the environment as an intrinsic part of human rights, to ultimately granting rights to the environment as an entity without any connection to human activities. The clear majority of environmental rights are based on a perceived relationship between human rights and the environment. Both at a national and at an international level, environmental rights are plentiful, varied, and complex and subject to many levels of governance. Thus, the arguments that environmental rights are not sufficient is not accurate. In this paper, I will argue that expanding or even amending environmental rights is not necessary to solve environmental legal problems. Instead, the perceived inadequacy of existing environmental laws can be remedied by establishing more streamlined processes and procedures, by, when possible, making the observation of environmental laws mandatory not just based on voluntary membership to environmental organizations. Current environmental procedures “have grown up haphazardly with no apparent underlying principle, and we consider they fail to provide a system appropriate for contemporary needs”
The protection of the environment is a global concern that requires the establishment of an agency or tribunal that oversees compliance with existing laws and regulations. If environmental rights are given the same value as human rights, then perhaps it is time to establish Environmental Tribunals to handle environmental legislation. A Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recognizes the need for an organization such as the one described above, “We recommend the establishment of Environmental Tribunals to handle appeals under environmental legislation other than the town and country planning system.”
More than new environmental laws what is needed is modernization in the way environmental regulation is handled, applied and enforced. The existing system is complex, difficult to understand for the general public, and it does not reflect consistent application of the law.
Law follows public recognition of significant threat that is a surprise in a...