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Essay for SubmissionWhen you can accomplish the learning objectives for this lesson, you should begin work on the essay described below. You may use any assigned readings, your notes, and other course-related materials to complete this assignment.Lesson 7 Essay: Climate Change and Economic Growth1 essay, 1 to 1.5 pages, single spaced, 50 points possibleBefore writing this essay, watch The Island President and think about the following questions: How is climate change a human rights issue? What does this imply about economic growth? Then write an essay in which you apply the Lesson 7 discussion and your readings to the movie. I advise thinking more critically before concluding that economic growth is necessarily good or bad for human rights, but conclude what you like, as long as you can back it up with evidence from the movie, the readings, and the discussion.Your essay will be evaluated using the rubric below.Scoring Rubric for Lesson 7 EssayFormat1 to 1.5 pages single spaced, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, 1″ margins; 1 point deducted for each 1/3 page too long or too short.5 pointsConceptsThe essay shows evidence that the student read, understands, and applies concepts from the assigned readings by Banerjee (2008) and Di Chiro (2003) to the above questions.15 pointsIn the essay, the student applies The Island President to question #1.15 pointsIn the essay, the student applies The Island President to question #2.15 pointsTotal points possible50 points
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In other words, Motorola justified its continued purchase of coltan from the DRC—which
was clearly funding continued armed conflict in the region—by claiming that the real
reason conflict in the region continued was that armed groups in the DRC lived by the
law of the jungle. In other words, conflict in the region wasn’t Motorola’s fault but the
fault of uncivilized groups who still lived in a state of nature, or perpetual armed conflict.
A group’s supposed relation to nature then was used as justification for the continued
implementation of a policy (the purchase of coltan) that was known to degrade the
ability of people to realize their human rights in practice.
Overall, combined with the way the conceptual split of nature and society informs policy
decisions about conservation areas, this shows us how conceptualizations of the
environment affect peoples’ ability to realize their rights in practice. While such
conceptualizations can lead to the implementation of policies that restrict peoples’ ability
to access resources they need to survive, such conceptualizations can also lead to
direct acts of terror and torture that violate standards of human rights. The environment
then—at least our conceptualization of it—clearly affects the ability of people to realize
their rights in practice. As we’ll see in the next section, it’s not just our perceptions of the
environment and peoples’ relation to it that impact the ability of people to realize their
rights in practice. The actual materiality of the environment, or the physical environment
itself, is also deeply implicated in the ability of people to realize their human rights in
practice now and in the future.
Thinking of the Environment, Reconceptualizing Human Rights
As your assigned text by Banerjee (2008) points out, incorporating the natural
environment into conceptualizations of human rights has become increasingly
prevalent, and it is acknowledged as critically important.
One passage that I thought particularly powerful in this regard discusses Ken Saro
Wiwa, the Nigerian activist mentioned in Lesson 3. Banerjee notes: “In one of his letters
smuggled from jail, Ken Saro Wiwa, the late Nigerian activist, writer, and Ogoni leader,
said that the “environment is man’s first right. Without a safe environment, man cannot
exist to claim other rights, be they social, political.” (page 166)
In other words, without a safe natural environment to live in, the realization of human
rights in practice is not possible. A safe natural environment is a prerequisite to the
realization of human rights in practice, not a secondary concern.
One example in which we can see the relationship between the natural environment
and the ability of individuals to realize their human rights in practice is the issue of
pollution. More specifically, the link between the environment and human rights can be
seen in the relationship between environmental pollution and health. Polluted
environments that promote the emergence of infectious diseases, respiratory diseases,
heart diseases, and various forms of cancer do not promote the realization of human
rights in practice. Instead, such polluted environments represent an explicit example of
how environments constitute a barrier to individuals’ realizing their right to life.
Beyond the immediacy of the negative health consequences of environmental pollution,
the environment has another more long-term relationship with human rights.
Specifically, when we think about issues of environmental sustainability, it becomes
clear that the environment will be critically important for the realization of human rights
well into the future. When we think about the possibility that the environment will no
longer sustain life, or the amount of life that it currently sustains, we again see a link
between the environment and the realization of human rights. After all, if the
environment cannot sustain human life, humans cannot realize their human rights. It is
important to note that the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights directly
addresses neither environmental sustainability nor the environment in more general
terms.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising that the United Nations has increasingly begun to
focus on issues of environmental sustainability and how they relate to the realization of
human rights in practice. The potential and likely consequences of global climate
change have received a large amount of attention, because they are expected to have
dramatic
consequences on various issues related to sustainability. These consequences include,
but are not limited to, agricultural production of food, water availability, desertification,
and the flooding of coastal regions where people live.
For more on the relationship between climate change and human rights
follow this link to the UNEP’s page on Human Rights and the Environment.
As you’ll see, a healthy environment capable of sustaining life is centrally
important to the continued realization of human rights in practice.
Correspondingly, it’s critically important to think about the potential
environmental consequences of climate change in relation to human rights,
because it will have direct consequences for the ability of people to realize
their rights in practice by affecting the environment’s ability to sustain life. In
fact, as you’ll see in the film The Island President, some people are already
facing the consequences of climate change—making it very clear that climate
change will, and in fact already is, having consequences for the realization of
rights in practice.
It is critically important to realize that, when thinking about human rights, we cannot
focus solely on humans and lose sight of the environments in which we live. As we
discussed earlier in this lesson, while we may tend to think of nature and society as
separate (Latour, 1993), being able to achieve our human rights now and in the future is
contingent upon an environment that is safe now and able to support life in the future.
Anything less means that people will not be able to realize their rights in practice.
In the next section, we will take a look at how communities have implemented what are
known as “toxic tours.” Returning to the concept of dialogue, we will see how toxic tours
act as a form of dialogue. From this, we’ll see how dialogue can effectively promote the
realization of human rights by promoting safe and sustainable environments.
Specifically, toxic tours bring attention to our differential positioning within the same
matrix of domination and illustrate how those in different social locations within the
matrix experience the consequences of our actions differently. In this case, such
consequences are cases of environmental pollution that have occurred because of
industrial growth, economic policies, and consumers’ decisions. Overall, this discussion
will bring attention to the potential of dialogue as a means to promote environmental
sustainability and, correspondingly, human rights.
The Case of Environmental Racism: Common Fate, Uncommon Barriers
to Realizing Rights, and the Power of Dialogue
While the assigned reading by Chiro (2003) is admittedly a bit dense, it provides a
perfect example of the ability of dialogue to promote the realization of human rights in
practice. As we discussed in the previous lesson on intersectionality, the potential of
dialogue to promote human rights is predicated on its ability to account for the different
barriers to the realization of human rights faced by people and groups of people in
different intersectional social locations. Further, the potential of dialogue to promote the
realization of human rights is also predicated on its ability to draw on the connections
that exist between people who, while facing different barriers to the realization of their
rights, are nevertheless connected because they exist within the same matrix of
domination. Dialogue represents a potentially powerful tool for promoting the realization
of rights in practice by utilizing and capitalizing on these connections, while
simultaneously acknowledging and accounting for differences between people. In Di
Chiro (2003), we see this potential of dialogue realized in the form of toxic tours.
Di Chiro (2003) pushes back against the notion that we all face common environmental
barriers because we face a common fate through the issue of global environmental
sustainability, and she displays through toxic tours the critical importance of
acknowledging the different, specific environmental concerns we face depending on our
intersectional social location. Although she acknowledges that global environmental
sustainability is a critically important issue, she argues that we all face particular
environmental concerns depending on who we are. Specifically, she uses the concept
of environmental inequality in tandem with environmental racism to draw attention to
this fact (page 215).
Critically, without taking account of these different environmental concerns and power
positions within the matrix of domination, policies may be implemented in the name of
all, when in reality we really aren’t all facing the same environmental concerns. Flying
under the banner of “the common good,” such policies (which often create conservation
areas that restrict peoples’ access to an area) typically justify marginalizing sizable
numbers of people for the “benefit of everyone.” In order to avoid the implementation of
such policies, which can actually result in even further marginalizing groups that are
already at a greater environmental risk than others, we must take into account the way
we face different environmental concerns.
Toward the end of her discussion, Di Chiro (2003) analyzes an “alternative form of
tourism,” which emphasizes “the interrelationships between the environment and local
cultures.”
Further, the tours are explicitly designed to promote awareness of the interconnection
between differently situated individuals.
In other words, toxic tours promote recognition that some individuals and groups are
exposed to more environmental risk precisely because some of us are shielded from
environmental risks due to our relative positions of power within the matrix of
domination. They enable those with a relative position of power to see the
environmental consequences of their privilege.
Through such processes of dialogue, we can more effectively promote environmental
sustainability and human rights. This occurs because we are forced to take account of
both (a) the different environmental challenges faced by groups positioned differently
within the matrix of domination and (b) our own roles in creating such different
environmental challenges. With this recognition, we may avoid generalized
environmental protection policies in favor of policies that take account of the diverse
experiences and challenges of various groups. Further, as a result of the dialogue and
with a greater awareness of the consequences, we can be compelled to change our
own actions. In summary, by promoting the recognition that we don’t all face the same
environmental concerns in relation to sustainability and that our own actions have
impacts on others’ environments, human rights are promoted through dialogue and
through the promotion of more appropriate and effective environmental policies and
personal actions.
Summary
Throughout this discussion, we have focused on the critical link between the
environment and realizing human rights in practice. Specifically, we explored how our
perceptions of environment affect the ability of people to realize their rights in practice.
Further, we also analyzed how the material environment directly affects the ability of
people to realize their human rights now and will continue to do so into the future.
Consequently, we analyzed a means through which environmental sustainability could
be promoted in a way that could avoid protecting the environment at the expense of
human rights. Specifically, we considered Di Chiro’s discussion (2003) of toxic tours and
their relation to the concept of dialogue. As we saw, promoting environmental
sustainability in a way that does not infringe on human rights is made more likely
through processes of dialogue that make us recognize how groups are interconnected
and face differential environmental risks accordingly.
Overall, we have continually seen the close link between the environment and human
rights. While the concept of human rights may compel us to forget about the
environment by focusing our attention on humans and not the environments in which we
live, it is critically important that we don’t lose sight of the environment. The environment
is important for the realization of rights now, and it will continue to be critically important
in the future.
Introduction
In this section, we will consider the relationship between the natural environment and
human rights. A relationship between the two may not be immediately apparent,
because the natural environment is often thought of as beyond, or outside of, social
concerns such as human rights (Latour 1993; Jerolmack 2012). As you read in the
assigned texts for this lesson, the natural environment is integrally important to the
realization of human rights in practice for many reasons—a point that has become
increasingly clear in the last twenty years to human rights activists and international
governing bodies such as the United Nations. We will focus on two instances.
•
•
First, we will examine how our concept of the natural environment and peoples’
relationship to it affects policies that impact the ability of individuals to realize
their rights in practice. As we’ll discuss, the rationale and reasoning behind these
policies is clearly tied to the environment and specifically to our
conceptualizations of it.
Next, we’ll examine a more direct relationship between the environment and
human rights by looking at the issue of environmental sustainability. We’ll see
how the realization of human rights now, and in the future, is in fact completely
dependent upon the natural environment.
After examining these two links between the environment and the realization of human
rights in practice, we will return to a topic from the previous lesson. We will discuss the
power of dialogue to promote the realization of rights in practice by examining a strategy
used by communities to build awareness of and overcome what’s known as
environmental racism. As we’ve discussed, the strength of dialogue comes from its use
of the divergent viewpoints and experiences of intersectionally situated individuals to
overcome divergent experiences of oppression, instead of trying to erase them through
generalized activist strategies that do not account for the unique experiences and
challenges of various individuals and groups of individuals.
What is the Environment?
What comes to mind when you think of the environment or nature? You probably think
of trees, rocks, streams, birds, fish, deer—maybe a favorite state or national park like
the Rocky Mountains, an Ozark stream, the Florida Everglades, the Amazon rainforest,
or the desert Southwest. It’s likely that you didn’t think of cities, machines, or even
humans—and for good reason. As Latour argues in We Have Never Been
Modern (1993), one of the central features of Western thought is a tendency to think of
nature and humans, or nature and society, as distinct, separate entities. So it would
make sense for you to think of nature and society as separate, because that’s how
you’ve likely been taught. It wouldn’t be surprising if you thought of the environment or
nature as being “out there somewhere,” beyond the reaches of human society.
Critically, this is a false conception, because when we really think about the
environment and society, we quickly figure out that they’re not separate. Candace
Slater (2002) and Jake Kosek (2006) both show that nature and society are intimately
intertwined and tangled. Nature is affected by society, and society is affected by nature.
In fact, when we look at how nature and society interact, it’s unclear what’s “nature” and
what’s “society.” Where does nature stop and society begin? In fact, we see that they
shouldn’t be thought of as separate in the first place.
William Cronon’s discussion (1991) of the growth of Chicago displays this point well.
While Chicago is typically not what you picture when you think of the environment or
nature, we have to realize that the growth of Chicago would not have been possible
without nature or the environment. Further, the growth of Chicago had vast,
transformative consequences for the environment throughout the central United States.
Chicago’s growth would not have been possible without the environment for two
reasons in particular. First, in order to acquire the building materials necessary to build
the city itself, large amounts of natural resources were extracted from environments
throughout the central United States. Second, Chicago’s growth was predicated on its
position within the railroad network of the United States, which became responsible for
shipping natural resources. If natural resources were not shipped on the rails, Chicago’s
position on the rail network would not have mattered. These two facts show us that
Chicago’s growth was completely dependent upon the environment or nature. Chicago,
a city typically thought of as being separate from nature or the environment, really isn’t.
In fact, its existence is completely dependent upon nature.
Chicago’s growth also had immense, transformative impact on environments throughout
the United States. Not only did the environment affect Chicago’s growth, but Chicago’s
growth also affected the environment, both in immediate and far-reaching ways.
Immediately, the growth of Chicago led to deforestation in the region surrounding
Chicago, because any available trees were cut down to provide materials for building.
Further, massive amounts of pollution, including human waste and animal remains from
the large-scale butchering facilities, were simply dumped into the Chicago River.
Chicago’s growth also transformed environments throughout the upper United States,
Midwest, and even the western United States. Specifically, the growth of Chicago
created a market where large amounts of timber, grain, and livestock could be sold. The
creation of a market to ship goods long distances promoted a system of production in
which a region concentrated on one particular product and then shipped the product
long distances to sell at the central market (Chicago). Consequently, Northern forests
were logged, Midwestern prairies were tilled to grow grain, and Western prairies were
turned into grazing ranges to produce cattle. Of course, such production practices had
dramatic transformative consequences on the environment.
Thus, while Chicago’s growth depended upon the environment, the environments in
many regions of the United States were dramatically changed by the growth of Chicago.
In fact, the environments we see today throughout many parts of the United States
would not be what they are without Chicago’s growth.
We must realize that the environment is not separate from society, and society is not
separate from the environment. They interact to transform one another. Consequently,
as we’ll now discuss, we must consider how the environment relates to the topic of
human rights.
While human rights and the environment might not typically be thought of together—
largely because human rights are considered a social phenomena or a process set
apart from the environment—the environment is integrally important to the realization of
human rights in practice.
In the following examples, we’ll see how our perceptions of the environment and how
people relate to that environme …
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