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From Environmental to Ecological Human Rights: A New Dynamic in International Law (P.E. Taylor)




Prudence E. Taylor


International Law, Environmental Law, Ethics, Ecological Rights



One of the most interesting developments in international environmental law in recent years has been the attempt to create links between the ethics debate and law reform. These attempts began with the recognition that philosophical discussions concerning the relationship between humanity and nature, and the moral worth of nature, were not only relevant to understanding the limitations inherent within current law, they were also fundamental to creating new legal obligations. As a consequence the language of philosophers began to emerge in the context of legal discourse. Phrases such as the “intrinsic value” of nature, “respect for nature,” “responsibility for nature,” and “future generational equity” have often found a place in dialogue and writings concerning traditional and new environmental legal obligations. At the municipal level this trend can be traced back to the late 1970s, while developments at the international level occurred more slowly. Nevertheless, by 1991 one of the first texts on international environmental law acknowledged that “ethical and philosophical concepts are crucial in understanding the actual nature of environmental law and the challenge it poses to international law.” 1

The task of this article is to consider a link between environmental ethics and human rights law in the form of “ecological rights.” The phrase “ecological rights” is used here to describe human rights which are subject to certain limitations. These limitations recognize that individual freedoms are exercised in an ecological context, in addition to a social context. In comparison, “environmental rights” …


(1998) 10 Georgetown Environmental Law Review 309


From Environmental to Ecological Human Rights: A New Dynamic in International Law