18 Yale J. Int'l L. 281 (1993)
The Human Right to a Safe Environment: Philosophical Perspectives on Its Scope and Justification

handle is hein.journals/yjil18 and id is 289 raw text is: The Human Right to a Safe Environment:
Philosophical Perspectives on
Its Scope and Justification
James W. Nickel'
I. SHOULD ENVIRONMENTALISTS USE RIGHTS LANGUAGE? ....................... 282
II. THE SCOPE OF THE RIGHT TO A SAFE ENVIRONMENT ........................ 284
A. The State of Affairs that the Right to a Safe Environment Prescribes ............ 284
B. Duties Generated by the Right to a Safe Environment ..................... 286
1. Duties of Individuals and Corporations ........................... 286
2. Duties of Governments ..................................... 286
3. Duties of International Organizations ............................ 287
III. THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE RIGHT TO A SAFE ENVIRONMENT ................... 288
A. Are Fundamental Interests Threatened? .............................. 288
B. Does Environmental Safety Require Environmental Rights? .................. 291
C. The Duties of Addressees ........................................ 292
D. Feasibility  ................................................ 293
IV. CONCLUSION   ................................................ 295
In the last twenty-five years, environmentalists have sought recognition for
the right to a safe environment (RSE) in national and international fora.' As
a result, some countries have recognized RSE in their constitutions.'
Nevertheless, much skepticism exists about whether RSE is a genuine human
right, and advocates of RSE still need to persuade critics that this right merits
national and international recognition. This paper presents a normative
t Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado, Boulder.
1. On the history of proposals for such a right, see Melissa Thorme, Establishing Environment as a
Human Right, 19 DENV. J. INT'L L. & POL'Y 301, 303-05 (1991).
2. See EDITH BROWN WEISS, IN FAIRNEsS TO FUTURE GENERATIONS 297-327 (1989) (listing
provisions from constitutions of Albania, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma,
Canada, Chile, People's Republic of China, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial
Guinea, Ethiopia, Federal Republic of Germany, German Democratic Republic, Greece, Guatemala,
Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malta, Mexico,
Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sri
Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Arab
Emirates, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Yemen, and Yugoslavia). Efforts to introduce an amendment to the U.S.
Constitution creating a right to a safe environment have failed. See, e.g., H.R.J. Res. 1205, 91st Cong.,
2d Sess. (1970). However, the preamble to the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act sets the goal of
assuring for all Americans safe, healthful, productive, and aesthetically and culturally pleasing
surroundings. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, Pub. L. No. 91-190,  101(b)(2), 83 Stat.
852, 852 (1970). Richard 0. Brooks has advocated the creation of a right to a healthful environment in
state constitutions in the United States. Richard 0. Brooks, A Constitutional Right to a Healthful
Environment, 16 VT. L. REV. 1063 (1992).
3. The right to a safe environment has not been subjected to extended philosophical examination and
debate in the way that economic and social rights have. W. Paul Gormley provided ai early case for

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