On environmental human rights

Alkaa kello
Päättyy kello

Pinni B4141, osoite: Kanslerinrinne 1.


Arto Laitinen/ SOC

Yliopistonlehtori Markku Oksanen (University of Eastern Finland) avoimessa filosofian tutkijaseminaarissa.

One of the main narratives in environmental ethical and moral thinking is preoccupied with the expanding scope of moral concern. In essence, it is a story of human progress, from egoistic and family-centered morality to cosmopolitanism. At the same time, this narrative is about "the invention of humanity" (Stuurman 2017) and its climax is the emergence of the idea of the equal rights of everyone belonging to the species homo sapiens (Griffin 2009, 2).

Despite numerous severe failings and backlashes, human rights have become an elemental part of normative parlance in the public sphere in the post-WWII world.

In this presentation, it will be looked at the promise of human rights in an environmental context. On the one hand, human rights can show a way towards sustainable and decent human societies because rights offer justified and legally recognised means to ordinary citizens to advocate their views and values. Often these views and values have an environmental dimension and there is an in-built tension between the right to development and the right to certain kind of environment.

On the other hand, the system of human rights that seems to be within our reach of implementation is of rather minimalistic nature. According to the minimalist idea, the human-rights regime ought to concentrate on "torture, beatings, killings, rape, and assault and to improve, as best we can, the security of ordinary people", as Michael Ignatieff (2002, 173) has formulated the position. He argues that, this "is the most we can hope for".

An obvious point of critique is that minimalism is agnostic about, or even fully negligence concerning, the social and cultural dimensions of human rights. The same critique emerges from an environmentalist perspective, although it must be remembered that intimidation and assassination of environmental activists is widespread phenomena and human rights minimalism would offer to the victims some hope for the better. In addition, the success of environmentalism, both as the movement and as an ideology, is unquestionably dependent on the good practice of human or basic rights.

If we adopt the minimalist approach, the environmentalism within the human rights regime can appear rather a far-fetched idea and limited to certain type of activity. As an alternative, it will be discussed whether human rights should be extended to new specific areas such as landscapes or ecosystem services in addition to more generalist notions such as decent or adequate environment.



Arto Laitinen, arto.laitinen@uta.fi, 050 318 7018