Human Rights and the Environment in the Anthropocene

Kotze, Louis (2014) Human Rights and the Environment in the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene Review, 1 (3). pp. 252-275. ISSN 2053-0196

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Human rights are considered ethical demands that operate at an elevated juridical level. They have become popular legal constructs that contribute to the traditional instrumentalist and the more esoteric functions of law. While there is often considerable criticism leveled against human rights, as creatures of law and as legal mechanisms possessing unique characteristics, they are also uniquely situated and able to perform a singular mediating role in the human-environment interface. The recent mushrooming of rights to a healthy environment, environmental-related procedural rights and other substantive political and socio-economic rights bearing on environmental interests, is testimony to their increasing popularity. Yet, despite their prevalence in the environmental regulatory domain, the arrival of the Anthropocene is possibly set to require a complete rethink of the way in which we use human rights to mediate the human-environment interface. This is because the Anthropocene presents an urgent call for dramatic regulatory interventions of a kind hitherto unseen. Accepting the continuing prevalence of human rights as part of the environmental regulatory domain, this article argues that there is every reason to believe that their traditional role, nature, objectives and construction should change because of the Anthropocene. The article carries this argument by discussing the Anthropocene and its features that might influence conceptions of human rights and the environment as they are currently embedded in the social institutions of environmental law and governance. The argument then uses climate change as a useful explanatory context to identify and to understand the different types of rights issues that might arise in the Anthropocene. The next part of the discussion then takes stock of human rights in the environmental context by evaluating the way in which they currently mediate the human-environment interface. The article concludes with suggestions founding a re-imagination of the relationship between human rights and the environment in the Anthropocene.

Keywords:Anthroposcene, Rights, Sustainability, Climate Change, Earth Charter
Subjects:M Law > M100 Law by area
Divisions:College of Social Science > Lincoln Law School
ID Code:39666
Deposited On:20 Jan 2020 08:51

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