Editorial: The Environment and Human Rights

By Right Now | 22 Aug 12

Right Now’s August 2012 content is dedicated to exploring the theme of the Environment and Human Rights.

We start with two different perspectives on their relationship. Bridget Lewis explains the usefulness and international development of a human right to an environment of a particular quality. In contrast, Peter Burdon proposes a more fundamental turn towards the idea of “the rights of nature”.

Next, the idea of “environmental justice” is introduced by Catherine Pelling in her review of the Environmental Justice Symposium at the University of Melbourne Law School, and Michael Power explains “environmental justice” in action, from Melbourne’s west to regional Victoria in “Fossil Fuels, Toxic Waste and the EDO”. Cecilia Riebl urges us to make the connection between human rights and environmental rights

Right Now Radio’s Felicity James discusses the concept of “environmental justice” further with Elizabeth McKinnon from the Environmental Defenders Office and Helen Van Den Berg from the Tullamarine Toxic Waste Dump Action Group. Meanwhile, Emma Kerins writes that “environmental justice, outside of the American context, focuses less on racial discrimination and more on the idea of power politics and the consequences of capitalism.”

To other specific issues, Western Australian Senator Scott Ludlam critiques the government’s attempts to establish a nuclear waste facility in the Northern Territory without proper consultation with Indigenous owners and without respect for their “rights, livelihoods and future”. Kristen Lyons highlights the negative potential impacts of foreign investment in food and agriculture on local communities, in considering the federal government’s 2012 National Food Plan. Samantha Hepburn looks at coal seam gas expansion and its effect on farmers, while Jenna Gibbons asks what Australia’s obligations are when it comes to trading uranium.

Chris Wright looks at the future of Rio+20 and Wendy Flannery reminds us that “we can’t walk on water” – and what that means for small island communities affected by climate change. Catherine Pelling tackles the same issue by asking about the looming problem of refugees caused by global warming.

August also featured environment related podcasts, including this one on the Victorian Climate Change & Environmental Law Panel.

Monique Nguyen looks at the Environmental Film Festival, whilst in our Friday Forum we ask you to answer whether or not we need a stand alone right to a clean and healthy environment. Katherine Grant argues for the expansion of marine protection in Australia, Liz Macpherson highlights the limitations of Indigenous water rights in the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan and Hsin-Yi Lo examines Indigenous land rights in the context of mining.

Finally, of relevance to the environmental footprint of natural resources companies and beyond, Right Now reviews an expert presentation on the development of the United Nation’s guiding principles on business and human rights.