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Environmental rights mean access to the unspoiled natural resources that enable survival, including land, shelter, food, water and air. They also include more purely ecological rights, including the right for a certain beetle to survive or the right for an individual to enjoy an unspoiled landscape.
Our vision of environmental rights include political rights like rights for indigenous peoples and other collectivities, the right to information and participation in decision-making, freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to resist unwanted developments.
We also believe in the right to claim reparations for violated rights, including rights for climate refugees and others displaced by environmental destruction, the right to claim ecological debt, and the right to environmental justice.
Many of these rights, particularly the political ones, are well-established and enshrined in various conventions and agreements. We can credit the establishment of some of these rights, as well as the acceptance of others that are not yet legally recognised, to the ongoing struggles of communities and indigenous peoples around the world.
Other ‘new' rights, including rights for climate refugees, have arisen over recent years due to the acceleration of economic globalization and the accompanying environmental destruction and social disruption. Still others, like the right to claim ecological debt, have emerged as the result of years of campaigning by Friends of the Earth and others for the recognition of the impacts of northern resource depletion and natural destruction in southern countries.
All of these rights are equally important, and they are all interdependent. Environmental rights are human rights, as people's livelihoods, their health, and sometimes their very existence depend upon the quality of and their access to the surrounding environment as well as the recognition of their rights to information, participation, security and redress.
Rights can be asserted in a variety of ways: for example, by appealing directly to the violating government, international financial institution or corporation; through international, regional and national courts; by applying public and media pressure; and by building coalitions with others seeking similar rights.
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This page and the above link are extracts from the Friends of the Earth International publication Our environment, our rights.
The Cartagena declaration on human and environmental rights.
Image: Community consultation regarding a mining project in Guatemala. Credit: CEIBA / FoE