Contributed by: Dina Lupin Townsend

There is almost no part of our lives, and almost no part of the world, that has not been radically altered by the arrival and spread of the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19. At this point, the impacts of COVID-19 are impossible to measure but it is clear that understanding this pandemic, its origins and effects, requires careful consideration of its environmental and human rights dimensions.

In this blog post, we have gathered together a selected list of articles, blog-posts, opinion pieces and social media posts that explore the intersections between human rights, the environment and COVID-19. Over the next weeks, we will continue to add to this list, so let us know about any other resources that we should include in the comments below.

The origins of COVID-19 and the environment

In this article, John Vidal investigates the environmental causes of the transmission of diseases between animals and humans, and their relationships to the destruction and encroachment into forests and other biodiversity rich areas: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/18/tip-of-the-iceberg-is-our-destruction-of-nature-responsible-for-covid-19-aoe

For a longer read on the environmental, social and political origins and expansion of COVID-19, check out:


COVID-19 – an opportunity for environmental change

Many commentators have argued that we should see the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to radically change our behaviour so as to end the destructive impacts we have on the environment. See, for example: Covid-19, the Climate Crisis and Lockdown –  an opportunity to end the war with nature

On this theme, Bill McKibben has argued that state bailouts should be made conditional on significant environmental investments by big business: https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/if-were-bailing-out-corporations-they-should-bail-out-the-planet

Activists are arguing that states should take this opportunity to not just shore up their economies, but to radically transform the economy. See, for example, the argument for green investment in the US here: https://jacobinmag.com/2020/03/green-new-deal-coronavirus-stimulus

More articles on pandemic as a green opportunity:

For another view, Jennifer Johnson picks apart arguments that treat pandemics as some kind of environmental bonus or worse, cure – particularly those that see the virus as a solution to over-population: https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/4622-we-are-not-the-virus?utm_source=Master+List&utm_campaign=53bb38c6d5-UK+Direct%3A+Verso+blog+response&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1f96ba5fab-53bb38c6d5-411725365&mc_cid=53bb38c6d5&mc_eid=ebd817839f

COVID-19 and climate change

A number of people have argued that much can be learnt about responding to climate change from the ways we are responding to COVID-19 and especially by the willingness of states to take radical action that fundamentally alters the ways we live: https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2020/march/after-covid-19-the-climate?referrer=

This article asks what a COVID-19-like response to climate change might look like:https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-03-24/what-coronavirus-like-response-to-climate-crisis-would-look-like

Some have argued that we need to think carefully about adopting COVID-19 like measures in our climate change response and advocacy: Thinking about climate change in a time of COVID-19

See also: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2020-03-25-covid-19-threat-is-a-crisis-of-inequality/?fbclid=IwAR1UuEmbaPLM44OhEtTvzV0_X1gv9gpVRYg3G012D5qWHpDcTc2qUFFCeZM

The authors of this article warn that when it comes to the issues of scientific consensus and public policy, we should not compare climate change and COVID-19: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2020/03/climate-coronavirus-science-experts-data-sceptics

Solidarity, vulnerability and COVID-19

An important theme that spans both global pandemics and global environmental degradation is that those who suffer the most are those who are already vulnerable and marginalised in society. Addressing global crisis, however, demands greater recognition of our common community and interconnected lives and greater solidarity with those in different circumstances. https://jacobinmag.com/2020/03/coronavirus-donald-trump-solidarity-profits

In this blog post, Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos argues that COVID-19 demands an ethics of withdrawal and ‘throws into relief the ultimate continuum amongst the various bodies, whether this continuum is desired or undesired.’ https://criticallegalthinking.com/2020/03/13/covid-the-ethical-disease/

COVID-19, human rights and the environment – country specific articles

While this is a global pandemic, its impacts are felt in very different ways in different countries and contexts, especially as governments develop their own unique responses to the crisis.

Many thanks to the members of the GNHRE network who contributed links and articles to include in this list.

Featured image from: https://www.unenvironment.org/covid-19-updates