Make Access to Healthy Environment a Human Right

Target: Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program

Goal: Support framework that would help defend environmentalists, not criminalize them.

John Knox, a rapporteur on human rights and the environment for the UN, is pushing to make the right to a healthy environment a human right. Environmentalists are targeted for defending the environment and vulnerable communities. Even more so in recent years, conservationists have been kidnapped, arrested, prosecuted, and outcasted for their work. Big business and those who have big stakes in natural resources such as land often target environmentalists who oppose their agenda. Last year, 197 environmentalists were murdered, according to Global Witness, a monitoring group.

However, the UN and other nations are showing support for the environment and its allies. The UN is currently scaling up training for judges, prosecutors, and police in environmental law. They also encourage them to work with companies who invest in human rights. Although environmental rights are still yet to be recognized in many nations, Knox is pushing for a UN resolution, which includes a policy framework to help support environmentalists and not criminalize them. His first policy is that states should ensure a safe, clean, and healthy environment that respects, protects, and fulfills human rights. His understanding of human and environmental rights allows him to see the connection between the two spheres.

Furthermore, he is pushing for support for vulnerable groups and acknowledgement of the role of business and governments in environmental and human rights.

Environmental rights are deeply intertwined with human rights. Often, those who cannot defend their own land and resources (water, food, air) suffer from exploitation. Knox’s ideas to implement a policy framework to support environmentalists and for the UN to recognize a healthy environment as a human right will help protect vulnerable communities and environmentalists. Sign the petition below to urge the UN to implement this framework.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Solheim,

The UN Environment Program is committed to improving the quality of life and environment for people without compromising that of future generations. In order to ensure quality of life for future generations, we must recognize that a healthy environment is a human right. Many groups and communities are vulnerable to environmental exploitation, for example through land grabs, illegal development, and development that promotes pollution. John Knox, the rapporteur on human rights and the environment, is proposing that a policy framework be put into place to help protect environmentalists and to also recognize a healthy environment as a human right.

Although the UN is committed to making sure that judges, police, and prosecutors are receiving more training in environmental law, we must extend this consideration to environmentalists and conservationists. Often, they are criminalized, but they are the ones who champion human and environmental rights when authorities and other groups do not.

Environmental health is closely linked to human health. People living in terrible conditions, ingesting polluted waters, inhaling polluted air, and having no access to natural resources, have their human rights revoked. They can no longer live in with dignity when they have no access to a healthy, clean environment. I urge you to push the UN to consider environmental rights as human rights and promote the policy framework to support environmentalists.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Osakabe Yasuo

Protect the Amazon from Deforestation

Target: Juwang Zhu, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development (DESA)

Goal: Amend Brazil’s new Forest Code to protect the Amazon.

The Amazon is in danger thanks to Brazil’s new Forest Code. The code, which was approved in the country’s Supreme Court recently, will have negative effects on the environment, as it places lax regulations around deforestation and does not protect the environment. In short, the new code, which replaces the 2012 code, puts economic interests above environmental protection. This new code is critical to Brazil’s future, as the Amazon nears a tipping point at which the forest will permanently become a savannah. This has implications for biodiversity, water supply, and climate change.

The new code was supported by an agribusiness lobby that ran propaganda in the news promoting ruralist interests and presenting them as scientific information. As a result, many parts of the code allow deforestation and development. An example is that deforesters who illegally cleared forest before 2008 will not be forced to pay the fines enforced on them. A member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences claims that this new code regularizes deforestation and and holds nobody accountable.

Conservations are concerned that illegally deforested lands will not be reforested without strict enforcement. Others are doubting the country’s judicial system and its ability to deliberate on complex technical questions regarding deforestation, socio-environmental issues, and climate change. Although the new code recognized the consequences of deforestation and set a basis for future socio-environmental cases, the Supreme Court did not uphold the constitution when it came to protecting the environment. They are allowing development and deforestation to continue. Sign the petition below to urge the Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, which holds the Committee for Forestry, to urge Brazil to amend the new code and implement more pro-environment policies.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Zhu,

In Brazil, a new code that replaced the 2012 Forest Code was approved recently. In it, it is obvious that the agribusiness and economic interests are favored over environmental protection. Farming on floodplains, urbanization projects, and no obligation to reforest illegally deforested areas are only a few of the policies deemed constitutional under the new code. Illegally deforested land may never be reforested again, as offenders are not being held accountable for their actions.

This new code is critical in Brazil’s history as the Amazon might reach its tipping point soon—the point at which the forest will turn into a savannah—causing extremely negative consequences. These consequences are tied to climate change, loss of biodiversity, and social and environmental issues. Without a voice to defend the environment, Brazil’s forests will continue to be cut down, with little hope of recovery.

As the Director of Sustainable Development and overseer of the Committee for Forestry, you are in a unique position to urge Brazil to amend the code. Although the code may now be the law of the land, perhaps they can set a precedent and amend a Supreme Court ruling if it means protecting the environment. I hope that you speak out against the new code and all the future consequences that will stem from it.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Josh Estey

Investigate Suspicious Death of Imprisoned Wildlife Advocate

Target: Seyyed Alireza Avaei, Iran Minister of Justice

Goal: Urge Iranian authorities to conduct a fair investigation into alleged suicide by imprisoned conservationist.

Iranian-Canadian conservationist Seyed Emami was found dead in a high-security prison, where he allegedly committed suicide. However, his family and the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights suspect foul play and are urging Iranian authorities to conduct a non-biased investigation to uncover the truth. The tension between conservatives and other more progressive groups have led to many disputes, including other environmentalists’ arrests around the same time as Emami.

A sociology professor and director of the private environmental organization Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Emami pursued social and environmental changes in Iran. He was accused of being a spy for the United States and Israel. Authorities claimed that the cameras installed by his foundation to track rare animals like the Persian leopard were actually being used to monitor Iranian missile activities and report to foreigners. Emami’s sons claim that these charges are ridiculous, especially since the cameras are cheap, can be bought anywhere, and could only capture up to 25 meters or 82 feet.

After his funeral, a deputy prosecutor revealed footage from the prison to Emami’s sons. In it, he is seen making the bed, putting a shirt around his neck, and going into the bathroom. Seven hours later they bring him out dead. His sons suspect foul play because the prison is high security and they feel that the whole incident was staged. Furthermore, Emami’s character was positive and unrelenting, and suicide would not have be an option, according to his sons.

Environmentalists should not be imprisoned on weak charges and be put in danger. Urge the Iranian authorities to conduct a fair investigation into his death. This might prevent further deaths for the six other environmentalists being detained with no access to legal council should it be revealed that authorities were involved in his death. Protect rights of people who are only trying to protect the environment; people who serve the public and the environment.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Avaei,

An Iranian conservationist in prison was recently pronounced dead, allegedly having committed suicide in a high-security prison. Seyed Emami was a professor of sociology and director of the environmental organization Persian Wildlife Foundation. He was charged on suspicion of being a spy for the United States and Israel because of the cameras his foundation installed to monitor rare animals such as the Persian leopard. Authorities claimed that these cameras were actually being used to record Iranian missile activities and that these records were being reported to foreigners.

These weak charges are hardly cause for arrest, and furthermore, his family and even the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights suspects foul play. Surveillance revealed that he made his bed, put on a shirt around his neck, and then brought out dead seven hours later. The incident seemed staged, according to his family. The UN is urging Iranian authorities to conduct a fair investigation into Emami’s death, something he deserves. He believed in protecting the environment and the public, and creating positive changes in Iran.

Mr. Avaei, show the rest of the world that Iran has a judiciary system that respects its citizens and allows them a fair trial. Help uncover the truth behind Emami’s death if there was foul play, and conduct a fair investigation.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Seyed Emami family

Protect Critically Endangered Habitats and the Animals That Call Them Home

Target: Josh Frydenberg, Minister for the Environment and Energy, Australia

Goal: Register federally endangered habitats so that their species and resources can be preserved for generations to come.

It has been well over a decade since Australia has listed a critically endangered habitat on its federal registry, meaning that endangered species have not been protected and resources have been plundered for over ten years. Despite having more than 1,800 federally threatened species in the country, Australia has not taken steps to protect the habitats these animals call home.

The situation facing endangered species in Australia is dire. Several million hectares of forest are set to be cleared in the coming decades, robbing thousands of plants and animals of their homes. Habitat loss, argue scientists, is the leading cause of plant and animal extinction.

Listing a species as endangered is simply not enough. Stronger actions must be taken, beginning with protecting the lands these animals live in. Sign the petition to demand that the nation of Australia start to declare habitats as federally endangered so that more steps can be taken to protect and preserve the lives of more than 1,800 endangered species.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Minister Frydenberg,

More than 1,800 species in Australia are listed as critically endangered by the federal government. However, the government has not listed any habitat as endangered for over a decade. This has allowed deforestation to continue, robbing endangered species of their habitat and resources.

Habitat loss is the leading cause of endangered species extinction. Listing species as endangered is not enough. Their homes must be protected as well. I demand that critically endangered habitats be federally listed and the animals that call these habitats home be protected.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: The Central Intelligence Agency

Praise China’s Fight Against Pollution

Target: Zhang Jianlong, Director of the State Forestry Administration of the People’s Republic of China

Goal: Encourage the restoration of millions of acres of forest in ravaged regions.

One of the world’s largest countries is doing its part in restoring our environment. As part of an ambitious plan to ensure up to one quarter of its lands are populated by forests within the next five years, Chinese leadership has enlisted the country’s army to take up arms against Earth’s most dangerous enemy: pollution. Roughly 60,000 members of the People’s Liberation Army and Chinese police forces will be tasked with planting enough trees across the expansive lands to cover an area the size of Ireland.

This step continues a promising commitment to green initiatives for China. Projects such as the Grain for Green program have proven successful in encouraging rural landowners to plant trees in the hopes of preventing flooding and damaging soil erosion. While issues like lack of biodiversity arose with this project, the new initiative by the State Forestry Administration has the benefit of strong leadership and a clearer plan of action. Recognizing the important role of trees in neutralizing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and in combatting pollution, the government has already devoted $80 billion to reforestation efforts at a time when many countries are beset by deforestation. This largest initiative yet will add millions more trees to the landscape. Many of these trees will surround areas beset by heavy smog, offering some counterbalance to harmful pollutants.

China is transitioning into a world advocate for environmental causes on all fronts, with other longstanding efforts currently ongoing in areas such as solar power, waste reduction, and the curtailing of development projects that could damage precious resources like rivers and lakes. The country is also actively encouraging individuals and organizations to participate in its reforestation efforts.

Sign this petition to support and encourage China’s progressive drive to boost the health of our environment and our world.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Director Jianlong,

“Development must be scientific development, and we must persist in unswervingly carrying out the concepts of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development.” In a world that sometimes loses sight of this fundamental principle, it is immensely encouraging to see these words enshrined in China’s central philosophy. The ambitious plan to increase China’s forest coverage is so meaningful because it represents more than just an idea; it is a course of action that will be realized and implemented with the full support of your government.

As in many other facets of your green initiatives, you are ensuring that China will be part of the solution rather than a driver of the problem. Every day, we witness the effects of environmental carelessness in our water, our weather, our food supplies, and in the very air we breathe. As countries, we may celebrate different ideals and drape ourselves in different symbols and colors, but at our core we all live under one color: green.

Please stand strong in your commitment to our shared environment. Green initiatives are the essential key to your country’s future and the future of our world.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Kevin Utting

Protect Recently Discovered Penguin Colony

Target: Jim Kurth, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Goal: Protect hidden colony of penguins in Antarctica in order to save the species.

A hidden colony of Adélie penguins was recently found on the Danger Islands of Antarctica, shortly after concern swept the ecological field regarding general penguin endangerment. Approximately 1.5 million penguins were discovered, enough to help downgrade the species to vulnerable and possibly save them from impending extinction within decades.

While this discovery is extremely welcome news, scientists are concerned that the existence of this colony alone will be enough for officials to declare the species safe. In truth, the protection of the area itself is also a major factor, as such spaces can easily fall victim to climate change-related dangers or overfishing. At the present, Danger Islands are largely safe from the effects of climate change and see very little human interaction. But the continued safety of this area requires funding and focus to maintain.

The discovery of this penguin colony is only one step in protecting the species. We must support the preservation of Danger Islands as a legally enforceable marine-protected area. Sign this petition to ensure that these birds will remain safe and their population healthy.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Director Kurth,

A colony of 1.5 million Adélie penguins has been discovered on the Danger Islands of Antarctica, answering the concern about the general endangerment of penguins on the continent. As of right now, the area is least suspect to climate change complications and sees very little human interaction.

But conservationists and scientists cannot rest easy. Despite the size of the colony and the safety of the area, it will not remain so without hard work and funding to ensure that Danger Islands will be a legally protected safe zone. We cannot simply assume that humans will stay away or that climate change will never touch them. You must help fund the preservation of Danger Islands as a legal safe space to protect this colony and ensure the survival of the species.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Jason Auch