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writing for godot


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Saturday, 12 October 2019 22:13

Human rights: Food for an insufficiently cared-for thought  ‘The rights of nature’


Human Rights Reader 499


1. What Monbiot highlights and reminds us-of calls for some serious questions:

  • Can we promote environmental protection through existing human rights (HR)


  • What protection does international law afford to climate refugees?
  • What are the synergies and tensions between the legal protection of HR and the



2. We may not have a one-way, simple response to these questions. But, to get the ball rolling, we do have some key very pertinent notions:

  • From the contamination of water bodies to the effects of climate change, the impact of environmental degradation on human life is one of the most pressing issues in contemporary international law. (Geneva Academy Of International Humanitarian Law And Human Rights)
  • Value systems based on sound ethics (and on recognizing the rights of nature) are central to the fair treatment of the environment and are a challenge to our individual and collective integrity. (Dato Anwar Fazal)
  • Until we have a movement from below, the environment will be seen as a bureaucratic abstraction or an endeavor on the fringe lines. (A. Fazal)


The philosophy of it (Julio Monsalvo)


3. One, more and more, hears about the need for a paradigm shift, from an anthropocentric to a biocentric one.*

*: But what is a paradigm? The term was proposed by the science historian Thomas Kuhn in 1962 to refer to the concepts and values agreed upon by the scientific community.


4. We must be aware that supporting and underlying the scientific paradigm is a cultural paradigm that comprises the concepts and values shared by a human group; it comprises what, for a given period of time, that group does not dispute thus generating implicitly consensual behaviors and relationships.


5. So, what is the scenario we are worried about? It is the place where we live --our local ecosystem-- the place where we can be protagonists of a new history.


6. What implications do these two paradigms then have for each of us?: The Northern cultural paradigm is called anthropocentric since it considers man to be at the center of the universe. We say ‘man’ intentionally here emphasizing the patriarchal character of this paradigm! This culture should actually be called androcentric.


7. Man feels he is outside nature, outside flora, fauna, oceans, rivers… Strange is that he does not ask himself why he feels he owns all forms of life. Furthermore, why does he consider that nature is a ‘source of resources’ at his entire disposal?


8. The values of this paradigm are: growing production lineally, accumulating things, competitiveness, a pyramidal power structure, a dualist view of reality (body/psyche; matter/energy, etc). So, does this paradigm contribute to the health or non-health of our local ecosystem?


9. The cultural paradigm of the first nations and of small farmer communities, especially women, is a biocentric paradigm since mother nature is at the center and it is firmly believed that we owe everything to her. Its values are those of being, networked relationships, respect, solidarity, sustainability, holistic view of the universe. Life is seen as a net of relations between human beings and as one more strand of mother nature.


10. Does this biocentric paradigm contribute to the health of our local ecosystem? Yes, it does.


The politics of it


11. The Right-Left dialectic has not vanished. If you do not believe, look at the growing environmental movement that today finds itself precisely in such a dispute. Climate change has become a banner of the Left and the struggle for climate change has mostly become an issue of social justice and human rights. In that sense, green parties are picking up the struggle the historical Left has not pursued vigorously enough. (Roberto Savio)


12. The neoliberal doctrine of individual responsibility has performed its sleight-of-hand, distracting us from the real culprit. As consumers, we are led to believe that being personally wasteful is the underlying issue, which can be fixed if we change our habits. But the main real problem is the mass production of (among other) plastics by corporations, and their overuse in retail. Yes, we are repeatedly sold the same message: that individual action is the only real way to solve social problems, so we should take responsibility. We are trapped in a neoliberal trap.** (Ronald Purser)

**: As an aside: Politicians continue to favor the fossil-fuel industry and an agro-industrial approach to agriculture, mainly because they do not know better …or are on the take.


The nitty-gritty of it: What are we talking about needs to be done?


13. The Pact for a Green New Deal Canada proposes the following for the countries in the North:

  • Rapidly reduce CO2 emissions
  • Stop all new fossil fuel developments immediately
  • Stop and redirect all fossil fuel subsidies (to the green energy research and solutions)
  • Increase the number of electric cars and support infrastructure
  • Convert public transportation to be carbon neutral
  • Implement full cost pricing (which includes the cost of a product’s environmental impact, disposal or recycling)
  • Ban single use plastics or ensure their recycling
  • Establish micro-grids of local electrical generation from solar and wind
  • Increase the safety of nuclear power and review its long term prospect
  • Promote and implement a circular economy as baseline policy
  • Provide consumer incentives for carbon neutral and green initiatives
  • Revise laws and regulatory codes to enhance environmental protection
  • Make it difficult for future governments to reduce environmental protections
  • Reorient a good part of our foreign aid to clean energy and environmental respect
  • Improve public education about the environment and climate crisis
  • Sponsor positive public communications about the climate crisis, with education, ideas and examples of successful actions
  • Increase individual agency to make a difference
  • Increase community dialogues (like this one)
  • Reform the United Nations to get people to think more globally
  • Avoid ‘last chance’ tourism
  • Welcome climate refugees
  • Decrease/Eliminate glyphosates, neonicotinoids and other chemicals in farming and gardening
  • Implement proportional representation
  • Implement guaranteed annual income policies
  • Enable Indigenous communities and respect their land rights
  • Give nature legal status in our constitution
  • Plant trees
  • All work together regardless of political orientation.


14. From a Southern perspective, Monsalvo tells us that, in the current historical moment, we see both paradigms coexist in different societies. Both paradigms can also exist within each of our societies and ourselves. Knowing this, allows us to take our own conscious decisions allowing us to be protagonists in the evolving revolution that is breaking with the old paradigm. (Think Greta Tundberg…)


15. We have the rich life experience of the first nations the world over. We are invited to respectfully dialogue with them to accept their values, their ancestral knowledge so as to recreate a society based on solidarity and HR capable of resolving its problems including in an ecologically sustainable way.


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

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