Liberal citizenship and the environment

Dinah Shelton distinguishes three ways in which the rights and environment contexts can come together. First, the objective of environmental protection might be pursued using existing human rights, 'such as the rights to life, personal security, health, and food . [I]n this regard, a safe and healthy environment may be viewed either as a pre-condition to the exercise of existing rights or as inextricably entwined with the enjoyment of these rights' (Shelton 1991: 105). [...] Second, the list of human rights might be extended to include the right to a liveable and A sustainable environment, and third, a right of the environment itself r might be established (Ibid.; see also Turner 1986: 9; Waks 1996: 143). ^ [...] Ralf Dahrendorf wonders whether the idea of environmental rights o (in Shelton's second usage above) makes sense at all: 'I am not sure whether one can stipulate an entitlement for all of us as world citizens to a liveable habitat, and thus to actions which sustain it' (Dahrendorf 1994: IH 18; see also Hayward 2000: 560-3). [...] One key context for the idea of -g environmental rights is national constitutions, and Tim Hayward points S out that, 'more than 70 countries have constitutional environmental £ provisions of some kind, and in at least 30 cases these take the form of "5 environmental rights ... No recently promulgated constitution has omit-'m ted reference to environmental principles, and many older constitutions 15 are being amended to include them' (Hayward 2000: 558). Constitutions m might be regarded as standards by which behaviour and performance are judged, and the political importance of the presence of environmental statutes in constitutions should not be underestimated. [...] Even when not enshrined in constitutions, the vocabulary of rights has tremendous discursive and political potential. The important 'environmental justice' movement in the United States, for example, has tapped very successfully into the civil rights language of US political culture (Hofrichter 1994; Szasz 1994; Dowie 1995; Taylor 1995; Pulido 1996; Schlosberg 1999). Environmental justice activists might plausibly be regarded as 'environmental citizens', understood as claimers of the right referred to by Christopher Miller: 'All human beings have the fundamental right to an environment adequate for their health and well-being.' Reid and Taylor graphically and explicitly refer to such activists as 'ecological citizens' whose 'lives were fairly well contained within the dominant narratives until they became aware of environmental damage in their home, neighborhood, or beloved commons or wilds, thus rupturing the logic of their American Dream' (2000: 458). [I would] quibble with their vocabulary - I regard environmental justice activists as 'environmental' rather than 'ecological' citizens [...]

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