Tag Archives: environmental health

Giving Nature Constitutional Protection: A Less Anthropocentric Interpretation of Environmental Rights (J. J. Bruckerhoff)

Author(s)

Joshua J. Bruckerhoff

Keywords

nature, anthropocentricism, constitutional rights, environmental rights, environmental health, environmental protection, biodiversity, jurisprudence

Abstract

Is it possible to use constitutional rights to protect the intrinsic value of nature? This question should seem somewhat paradoxical. Constitutional rights are, by their very nature, anthropocentric-they confer a right to people and to people only.1 This Note argues, nonetheless, that it is possible to use constitutional environmental rights to defend nature from environmental harm. Many countries (and some U.S. states) purport to grant their citizens a constitutional “right” to a healthy environment.2 These constitutional environmental rights remain largely untested in the courts;3 however, when they have been invoked, most courts have construed the right very narrowly. The courts hold that the right to a healthy environment only restricts state action that is likely to cause environmental harm that creates a signiflcant threat to human health, such as pollution.4

This current understanding and enforcement of environmental rights is flawed because it is too anthropocentric.  A right to a healthy environment should actually guarantee a healthy environment, not just an environment that satisfies minimal health standards for humans. This Note argues why environmental rights should protect nature’s biodiversity and how this goal can be accomplished within a workable constitutional-rights framework.

Scientists warn that human activities are threatening the survival of the world’s plant and animal life.5 Moreover, mounting evidence illustrates the importance of protecting nature’s biological diversity, or biodiversity.6 This evidence shows that biodiversity is critical to both overall environmental health and human well-being. Incorporating biodiversity protection into constitutional environmental rights will ensure that the rights will actually guarantee a truly healthy environment for present and future generations.7

There are two principal avenues for incorporating biodiversity considerations into environmental rights jurisprudence. First, the constitutional provision should link the concept of environmental rights with a broader definition of environmental health. Some current constitutions already accomplish this goal by not just guaranteeing a “livable” or “healthy” environment but by granting “a right to an ecologically balanced environment”8 or, stated more profoundly, a right to “a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”9 second, and more importantly, courts should interpret and apply environmental rights more broadly. Because courts are unlikely to expand environmental rights on their own initiative, advocates of environmental rights should (1) highlight the scientific evidence that illustrates the interrelationship between biodiversity and human health and (2) emphasize the nexus between cultural values-specifically the rights of indigenous peoples-and overall environmental health.10 Ultimately, this Note aims to establish a workable constitutional framework for how citizens could rely on environmental rights to protect biodiversity.

This Note is divided into five parts. Part I emphasizes the importance of biodiversity law in environmental protection and explains the differences between anthropocentrism and biocentrism. Part II explains why a constitutional environmental right should be part of a comprehensive environmentalprotection regime. It also presents an argument for why environmental rights should be less anthropocentric. Subsequently, Parts III and IV discuss the two principal avenues for incorporating biodiversity considerations within environmental rights jurispmdence. Part III discusses how the constitutional text itself affects both the enforceability and application of environmental rights. It explains why most environmental rights provisions have not been enforced and notes that even when courts have enforced the right, they have limited its reach. Therefore, it outlines how an effective environmental right should be written to guarantee that it provides biodiversity protection while remaining individually enforceable. …

Citation

(2008) 86 Texas Law Review 615

Paper

Note, Giving Nature Constitutional Protection: A Less
Anthropocentric Interpretation of Environmental Rights

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Governance instruments that protect children’s environmental health… (D. Spady et al)

Author

Donald Spady

Nola Ries

Brian D. Ladd

Irena Buka

Alvaro Roman Osornio-Vargas

Colin L. Soskolne

Keywords

Canada; children’s rights ; EC law; environmental health; foetus; hazardous substances; pollutants; United States.

Abstract

Reviews legislation and guidelines in the OECD countries of the EU and in the US on the protection of children’s environmental health, including that of the foetus, to assess the lessons that might be learned by Canada. Examines the extent to which the health effects on children have been specifically addressed in legislation governing environmental exposure to chemicals and pollutants. Notes the gaps identified in the regulation, research base and funding, and harmonisation of laws.

Citation

(2008) 10(3) Environmental Law Review, 200-217.

Paper

Governance instruments that protect children’s environmental health: is enough being done?

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Maintaining the Biological Integrity, Diversity, and Environmental Health… (N.P. Matson)

Author

Noah P. Matson

Keywords

Environmental health, diversity, biological integrity, wildlife

Abstract

By 1984, selenium contamination from agricultural runoff had become so acute at Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in California that waterfowl were dying, bird embryos were deformed, and aquatic species were disappearing. The incident raised questions about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) ability to address resource issues emanating from beyond refuge boundaries and whether the FWS had an affirmative duty to sustain wildlife on a national wildlife refuge. The landmark 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act clearly mandates affirmative stewardship responsibilities for the FWS, including a provision to maintain the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the refuge system. While these terms are generally understood by the scientific and resource professional community, detailed prescriptions for management are less clear. I propose a simple framework that allows for integration with the existing refuge management planning process to address management issues that are clear (like the contamination at Kesterson) while establishing a longer-term research oriented approach to better understand and maintain the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the refuge system.

Citation

(2004) 44 Natural Resources Journal 1137

Paper

Maintaining the Biological Integrity, Diversity, and Environmental Health of the National Wildlife Refuge System

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