The environment is so fundamental to our continued existence that it must transcend politics and become a central value of all members of society.
∼ David Suzuki, The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature
Did you know that roughly 100 nations have environmental rights enshrined in their constitutions along with human rights? This means that their highest law guarantees environmental rights such as clean water, clean air, safe food, and uncontaminated soil. Ironically, the nations that do not yet have such protection embedded in their laws include industrialized countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, China, Japan and New Zealand.
The Blue Dot movement, backed by the David Suzuki Foundation, is endeavouring to win support across Canada for enshrining environmental rights in our constitution. Their strategy is to work from lower levels of government up. In December, Toronto was the 100th city to sign a Blue Dot declaration enshrining citizen rights to clean air, safe water and food, a stable climate and a say in decisions that affect their well-being. The end goal is a federal environmental bill of rights or a constitutional amendment.
Why is it so important to embed environmental rights in the constitution? A constitution reflects the fundamental values of a society and is not easily changed. Constitutional rights to a healthy environment and stable climate will promote strong environmental protection laws that cannot be easily overturned. Such rights will empower the courts to make decisions that reinforce those laws.
Interested in reading more? My best source was The Constitutional Right to a Healthy Environment, by David R. Boyd, Environment Magazine, July-August 2012.
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