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Growing a Just Society: Linking Trade, Human Rights and the Environment

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Originally appears in the Summer 2007 issue

How is a healthy environment connected to human rights? A healthy environment is a human right. Without clean water, fresh air and fertile soil for growing food, it is hard to get an education, raise a family or work for a better society. A healthy environment is the foundation of a sustainable society and economy.

Yet in many areas of the world, the right to live in a healthy environment is compromised by resource extraction and manufacturing processes that pollute the air, water and soil, and provide little benefit to local communities. The consequences are often tragic. In 1995, for example, Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed because he spoke out against the environmental devastation of his homeland by multinational oil companies. As oil pipelines were built across their land, his people, the Ogoni, had died from hunger and disease. All the while, consumers around the world were fueling their homes and cars with oil from the Niger Delta, most of them oblivious to its social and environmental impacts.

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Tricia Edgar coordinates education programs at the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre in North Vancouver, British Columbia.