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A Healthy Environment is a Basic Human Right

Nancy Gerth recently wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Bonner County Daily Bee making this argument quite eloquently. The BCHRTF is writing its own letter in support of this position. You can read Nancy’s excellent article here. Here is the BCHRTF response:

"The Bonner County Human Rights Task Force would like to declare its support for the idea proposed by Nancy Gerth in her January 31 letter that appeared in the Daily Bee. In it she proposed that a healthy environment is a basic human right. Although it is not specifically stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we agree that many of the rights named in that document are dependent on clean air and water-- an environment that has not been degraded by the actions of human beings. For example, Article 24 states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…” This is not possible without a healthy environment. As Nancy pointed out, over one million children die each year as a result of air and water pollution alone. Those who profit most from actions that are destructive to the environment are those with the financial means to escape the effects of such actions-- at least for a time. Millions of others are sickened, and displaced, often with no place to go. This discriminates devastatingly against those with the least means. The concept of human rights has been evolving for many years. The first written statement goes back to 539 BC. It is still evolving. However, we might be wise to be advised by a statement attributed to Chief Seattle in 1854: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” Acknowledging how critical stewardship of our environment is to providing equal rights and opportunity for all would be a further evolution in our understanding of human rights. Let's take that step! A healthy environment is, indeed, a human right.
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