On Human Rights Day, Calling the Next ‘Greatest Generation’

Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez Dec 10, 2011

(Photo: Darwin Bell)Today, Human Rights Day, I call upon the peoples of the world to understand that if we don’t focus on reducing human impact on the global environment in this new century, all the other more isolated issues will be moot.

Issues from the militarization of the police, to the use of rape as a weapon of war, to the stifling of free speech and democracy, are important—but they’re just minor skirmishes.

The real battle for human rights is taking place in the realm of energy politics.

It’s taking place on the thousands of oil rigs out in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s taking place in the hundreds of new hydro-fracking wells being dug in upstate New York and Pennsylvania.

It’s taking place in the coal mines of China and the tar sands of Canada.

All of us are players in this deadly game.  Every time we turn the key in the ignition of our car, or buy food produced by a factory farm, or pay our electric bill.  We participate as consumers, and as consumers, we have more power than we realize.

On Human Rights Day, we need to remember three things:

•   The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the human right to health

•   A healthy environment, including healthy food, water and air, is essential to human health

•   Corporations, not being people, must not be allowed to trample on human rights.

Indeed, corporations, being human creations, should be serving human rights.

If a healthy environment is essential to human rights, then corporations should be working on making our environment as healthy as possible.  Corporations work for us.  They need to meet our needs, and uphold our rights.

There is a new movement afoot to define and uphold the Rights of Nature, which is a totally laudable goal. But in my view, the rights of the natural world and the rights of human beings are inextricably intertwined.

To truly uphold human rights would be to truly uphold the rights of Nature.

We are animals.  We are part of the natural environment of this planet.  If we foul and destroy our environment, we will die, along with countless other living beings: animals, insects, marine life, birds and plants.

This is a big battle; these are momentous times. We need to step up and be the new “greatest generation.”  We need to hold corporations accountable for their destructive, life-threatening actions.  We need to insist on change.

If we don’t, will anyone be left to lament our failure?

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