Sixty years ago today the United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Pictured above is Eleanor Roosevelt who played a key role in the UN Commission that devised the charter. Today in 2008 a group called Trees Have Rights Too are calling for a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights in order to focus attention on the growing threat of climate change. Polly Higgins, the UK barrister and environmental activist who is leading the call, has been greatly inspired by the work Eleanor Roosevelt's did in 1948 saying, "Without her, I would not be doing what I am now!"Presenting to the United Nations
Polly Higgins presented the proposal for the Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Northern Ireland on 6th November, with the hope that sixty years after the UN lead the way on human rights they will now take up the challenge of addressing our planet's rights.
In the attempt to draw up this environmental charter Higgins says:
"What is required is a seismic shift in our consciousness, rather than a mere reduction of emissions. This shift should give full recognition of the duty of care that we owe to this beautiful planet. Just as the humanitarian crisis of the Second World War gave birth to the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60 years ago on 10th December 1948, so we now have a planetary crisis that needs to be addressed with equal urgency. Let this be the date when we take those first steps to seriously address this problem."
Fighting for the environment
After years of working as a successful barrister Polly Higgins decided she needed to direct her energy specifically towards fighting for our environment. Since then she has worked for DESERTEC-UK on the legal side of developing renewable energy technologies such as Concentrated Solar Power and now Higgins is working with EnAct International - a consultancy that specialises in "developing and strengthening governance systems that promote ecologically sustainable societies". In addition to all this she has set up the Wise Women network to encourage more women to get involved in environmental activism.
Duty of care to the Planet
Polly Higgins is passionate about the need for society and governments to put in place some global duty of care to the planet:
"We have to provide an inspirational legal foundation to create the legal tools to remedy the damage, pollution and loss as well as to protect that which is precious and still exists. Just as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has provided us with the tools to fight for human rights so now we need to do the same to provide the necessary tools to fight for the planets rights."
Trees Have Rights Too
The Lazy Environmentalist
More on human rights + the environment:
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Great Apes Granted 'Human Rights' by Spanish Parliament
Logging, Palm Oil and Human Rights in Borneo: Malaysian Government Pushes Ahead By Ousting Indigenous Leaders
Tibet: When "Sustainable" Development Goes Awry
People and Planet: UK Students Tackling Poverty, Human Rights and Environmental Issues