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1 J. Hum. Rts. & Env't. 1 (2010)

handle is hein.journals/jhre1 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, Vol. 1 No. 1, March 2010, pp. 1-6


Where Discourses Meet

Sustained reflection on the relationship between human rights and the environment has
arguably never been more  urgent, but the signs are that human rights discourse and
environmental  discourse have, at present, an uneasy and relatively under-theorized
   The Journal of Human   Rights and the Environment was  first initiated in order to
provide an academic  forum in which  a sustained inter-disciplinary conversation can
take place concerning  the links, reticulations, distinctions and analogies between
human  and  environmental rights, issues, discourses, laws, institutions, policies and
strategies. It is particularly exciting to see that vision take its first public step towards
realization with the publication of this, the inaugural edition of the journal.
   Deeply significant concerns lie behind the need for such an academic conversation.
The  integrity of the Earth's ecological systems is under relentless and destructive
pressure from the adverse impacts of human  activity. At the same time, along with
the multitudes of defenceless living species adversely affected by the degradation
of our shared environment,  millions of human   beings also suffer the deleterious
effects and destructive impacts of human activity, particularly in the context of eco-
nomic  globalization. Millions of human beings live in crushing impoverishment, ill-
health, political disempowerment and under conditions of profound social exclusion
and growing  risk. Moreover, environmental  degradation presently has a direct and
disproportionate impact on the rights of the most vulnerable human beings and com-
munities, such as indigenous populations, as Westra has long argued. It is hard to see
what  could be more  important than urgent and sustained intellectual and political
engagement  with such savage realities.
   Genuinely  complex  and challenging questions attend the role of human rights in
relation to environmental initiatives. For example, if political and legal control of
environmentally  abusive practices is made more authoritative and extensive, there
is a strong likelihood that environmental policies, rules, rights and responsibilities
will conflict, for example, with human rights to development, privacy and private
property. The  resolution of such conflicts seems  by no  means  straightforward.
There is a related perception that the strong individualism in mainstream human rights
discourse could form a barrier to the collective action necessary to rescue the envir-
onment  from human  practices that degrade its quality - a perception that may not be
entirely fair, but which raises the manifold complex tensions and paradoxes concern-
ing human  rights discourse already well-discussed in critical human rights literatures.
Minimally,  human  rights and civil liberties can protect the freedom of expression,
information, association and protest necessary to effective collective action when
the state does not respond rapidly enough to environmental challenges, but questions
remain concerning  precisely how human  rights law and discourse can evolve to be
fully and substantively responsive to growing environmental  challenges, physical
and regulatory. Difficult questions attend the issue of which rights and whose rights

0 2010 The Author                         Journal compilation 0 2010 Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd
                                   The Lypiatts, 15 Lansdown Road, Cheltenham, Glos GL50 2JA, UK
                         and The William Pratt House, 9 Dewey Court, Northampton MA 01060-3815, USA

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