Professor John Knox speaks about threat of environmental change on Earth Day

In recognition of Earth Day 2013 on Monday, April 22, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner has released a statement warning of the potentially dire effects of failing to conserve the environment. 

Wake Forest Law Professor John Knox, Henry C. Lauerman Professor of International Law and a United Nations Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment, was among the experts quoted on the issue.  

“In the decades since the first Earth Day, on 22 April 1970, the international community has taken great strides to address pressing environmental issues,” concluded the United Nations human rights experts on environment, toxic waste, health, water and sanitation, food, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders. “It has come together to address ozone depletion, the loss of endangered species, marine pollution, and many other environmental threats.”

The statement was composed of statements from individual experts and collective comments from the group as a whole.

Knox added, “However, when governments around the world fail to restrict emissions of greenhouse gases leading to global climate change, they fail to protect many human rights, including rights to life, health, property, development, and self-determination, of people living in vulnerable communities such as those in low-lying coastal areas and in the polar region.”

The origin of the modern environmental movement began on the original Earth Day in 1970.  The holiday has evolved into a global event that reiterates the need to protect and conserve our natural environment.

“Now it is time to take this occasion to recognize the fundamental link between a clean and healthy environment to the realization of a wide array of fundamental human rights,” the expert group stated. “It is also essential that the international community recognize the critical role that human rights law can play to ensure environmental protection.”

The full statement can be read here.