Linking Human Rights & the Environment

A recent report released by the Worldwatch Institute links environmental activism and human rights protection. The report, "Eco-Justice: Linking Human Rights and the Environment," suggests that the existence of social inequities may be at the root of environmental injustices. Worldwatch research associate Aaron Sachs cites various environmental issues faced by minority and impoverished peoples of Nigeria, Brazil, Kenya, the Philippines, China, the United States, and other countries. In most cases, the people fighting against environmental exploitation (those immediately affected by it), are being systematically silenced by the polluters, or the governments that benefit from such pollution. The recently executed Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa is a tragic case in point. As the report details, victims of environmental and human rights abuses are often impoverished minorities who already face societal discrimination, and who have limited resources for mounting protests. Sachs suggests that both the human rights and environmental movements should join forces in order to strengthen their overall impact. "If all the vulnerable members of society -- the impoverished, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, women, children -- had access to environmental information and could exercise their right to free speech," he explains, "then potential polluters and profligate consumers would no longer be able to treat them as expendable, and would have to seek alternatives to their polluting activities and overconsumption." For more information, contact WorldWatch's Jim Perry, 202-296-7365

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