As a boy, teenager, and young adult, I remember both of my parents used to say to me, "Son, you will never know how I feel until you have children of your own."
In 1995, when I fathered my son, and 10 years later, when I was blessed to father a healthy, and vegan conceived baby girl, I finally understood what my mother and father had been telling me over the years.
Fatherhood reinvigorated my appreciation of our country. The freedoms it offers. The promise of the pursuit of happiness.
Fatherhood reinvigorated my appreciation of the founding fathers and the constitution, my favorite part of which lives, immortally, in the pre-amble and speaks to the soul of being a parent. In it, the architects of our commonwealth crafted a clear and concise imperative to “secure the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our posterity,” and in doing so, ordain our constitution of the United States of America.
As a matter of fact, a few years after my son was born, I committed to this imperative by embracing a vegan lifestyle, as I had by this time, made the connection between the devastating effects of animal agriculture to violence and the destruction of our air, land, and water resources. Nonetheless, this was a personal choice. Like you, I woke up to a vast sea of epiphanies, realizing the importance my individual actions have on the collective.
To this end, the responsibility to protect our rights lies within our constitution and, so too, must all laws, regulations and policies be in alignment with these.
Our human rights are protected by the constitution, which determines the state’s obligations. Reflecting our society’s most treasured values, a constitution is an indication of the very heart a nation.
In an ideal world, environmental rights would automatically be included in each and every country’s constitution to ensure that every citizen had the right to live in and defend a sound and ecologically-balanced environment.
Fortunately, 90 countries have included environmental rights into their national constitutions!
Human beings have the basic right to live and work in a healthy environment. Consider, if you will, the words of Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring) who, in 1962 said, "If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantees that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem."
The Stockholm Declaration came about as a result from the groundbreaking global eco-summit in 1972. Here, we learned that, "Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations."
In the years since the The Stockholm Declaration, it is pleasing to see that 177 of the UN’s 193 member countries have now recognized this important right via their own constitution, international agreements, environmental legislation, and court decisions. However, countries such as ours, China and Canada have not yet implemented this right on a government level, but it is gratifying to note that various subnational governments have recognized the right to live in a healthy environment. So far, six US states, five Canadian provinces and territories and several cities have made progress in this area, but we still have a long way to go.
Many people are at opposing ends of the field when it comes to debating the benefits of constitutional environmental rights.
Advocates for such implementation argue that adding environmental rights into the constitution would enable tougher environmental laws and policies, as well as the better implementation and enforcement thereof. Citizens would be encouraged to participate in making decisions on their environment, would feel accountable, and there would be fewer environmental injustices. In addition, this right would exist parallel with economic and social rights, and the environment would fare better in the long run.
People against the implementation of environmental rights into the constitution believe that it would be too vague to be of any use. They argue that we already have environmental laws and human rights, so it would be redundant. In addition, it would cause too much litigation and would be difficult to enforce.
Is the constitutional right to live in a healthy environment merely an impossible dream...a whisper with few practical consequences? Or can this right be a powerful change agent for accelerating progress toward a sustainable future? Perhaps the answer to these questions lies in the experiences of the 92 countries who already enjoy environmental rights in their constitution.
It is interesting to note that recent research has revealed that when a country has the right to a healthy environment embedded in its constitution, there are significant legal outcomes as a consequence:
- tougher environmental laws - court decisions which defend the right from violations
Although the United States is recognized as a world leader in green, sustainable, and environmental technologies and policies, it benefits our posterity, and us now, to remain humble as we evolve as a nation; to evolve while learning from the triumphs, and losses, of other nations. For evidence substantiates that benefits prophesized by people just like you and me with a vested interest in green policy and constitutional environmental rights also are indeed being realized, while the conceivable disadvantages are not occurring.
In some nations, the constitutional right to green-ism, sustainable and healthy living practices, and environmental protection has become a catalyst for unification and open collaboration. For example, in Argentina, the constitution was reformed in 1994 to incorporate the right to a healthy environment. This had a positive domino effect because many provincial constitutions were then modified to include the right as well.
The constitutional right to a healthy environment has also had a significant impact in other countries, such as South Africa, Brazil, Costa Rica, Portugal, the Philippines, and Colombia. In addition, we are also witnessing the French environmental law undergoing a similar, positive transformation, as a result of the Charter for the Environment in 2005.
In this country, science and politics compete with each other. Scientists are objective, gather information, and utilize scientific methods in their work. Often requiring additional time for experimentation, the work of scientists can easily be integrated into public policy.
Politicians, by contrast, are led by various factors, such as uncertainty, pressure from interest groups and electoral considerations. They are also likely to view environmental issues as idealistic, needing answers before the next election.
Our government and the citizens elected to represent you and me in it, should reverse this paradigm where science and politics co-exist: a situation where politics is free from subjectivity, special interest, ideology, and partisanship.
Enter the Humane Party.
We so desperately need a government that is committed to forging a green national identity which prizes empowered voters, like you and me, over elite insiders. A government which embraces respect over exploitation and initiative over entitlement; a government that encourages restraint over indulgence and conservation over waste; a government dedicated to an ethical and practical path of forgoing unsustainable and destructive practices that weaken our economy, accelerate our health care costs, compromise the future of our posterity, squander our natural resources, engender hostility among our fellow nations, and endanger our national security.
What our country needs is a government that is committed to ending the use of toxic and hazardous fuels and energy production methods and replacing these fuels and methods with alternatives that serve the nation’s immediate and long-term economic interests; one which sees no politics in defending our nation’s, and world’s, air, land, and water resources against further contamination and depletion.
We require representatives in government who can illustrate, on-demand, their commitments to the prevention of anthropogenic effects on air quality, soil quality, and water quality beyond those inherent to just us humans.
We are in need of a government that is unwavering in its effort to preserve the remaining ecosystems of which our nation is a part and protecting all remaining species who inhabit such ecosystems which includes protecting the animals that consider these ecosystems home.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a government that understands that revitalizing our damaged ecosystems include admitting and solving the root causes of the depletion and contamination of our air, land, and water resources, including those causes, like animal agriculture and dairy farming, that have identified by global conglomerate organizations like the United Nations?
We desperately need a government to protect the right of all individuals in our country, including our non-human animal friends.
And today we ask that the citizens of this government encourage and empower human beings close to our spheres of influence to commit to the same values. Green values.
Call to Action: Spend time to really learn about the elected officials who represent you. I challenge you to research their current representation.
What is the personal and business interest of your senator and representative?
Is this person going to represent your green interest?
For example, prior to accepting a volunteer officer's role with the Humane Party, I signed an oath to live my life to the best of my ability according humane principles and environmentally considerate values.
In closing, I would like to leave you with a few words from Carl Sagan's book, “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future In Space”. This should inspire you all to contemplate the fragility of our precious planet and how we, as women and men, are duty-bound to protect it:
“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”