Earth is suffering from a Triple Planetary crisis; these include pollution, climate change, and loss of biodiversity. This is happening at an alarming rate, and the changes can be seen in everyday lives with unpredictable storms, hot summers, retreating glaciers, and more. While humans are being selfish about the climate crisis, the UN has taken a step for humans to realize the consequences with the addition of the Healthy Environment Human right. Yes, the UN Declares a healthy Environment a Human Right, which is a great step.
If humans realize this, their selfishness to survive and live in a breathable atmosphere will govern their actions to protect the environment. As of July 2022, the UN General Assembly in New York has declared Healthy Environment a fundamental Human Right. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, was a crucial member in inviting countries to unite their resources and work as a collective toward the climate crisis that is lurking globally.
What are Human Rights, and why is there a need for them?
Human Rights are the fundamental rights of every human on this planet, regardless of race, color, sex, culture, or ethnic origin. These are the rights for the very existence of being a human and are a birthright. These rights sound straightforward and obvious, but they need to be drafted so that every human knows their fundamental rights.
For instance, the right to freedom, and the right to life, are examples of Human Rights. Human Rights are added by contemplation, discussion, and the decision of the member nations of the UN. Recently, a new human right has been introduced where the UN declares a Healthy Environment as a Human Right.
What is Classified as a Healthy Environment?
So what is classified as a Healthy Environment, and why does it need to be a Human Right? In simpler terms, a healthy environment for humans refers to an environment that does not threaten the health and is free from hazards. No human should be left in an environment that threatens their life.
For a healthy environment, the surrounding includes good food, clean air, water, and hygienic surroundings. There was a need to introduce this because the concept of a healthy environment is being neglected. According to WHO, almost 90% of people breathe polluted air.
Why is there a need for a Healthy Environment?
Of course, there is a need for a Healthy environment. The average human lifespan in the previous century was higher than today. Here are the six reasons why the UN Declares a Healthy Environment a Human Right;
1. Emergence of Zoonotic Diseases
The boundary between humans and wildlife has been blurred with rapid urbanization and colonization of forested areas. For this reason, the risk of coming in contact with pathogens increases. According to the UN, around 60% of human infections come from animal origin. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services suggests that over 1.7 million unidentified viruses exist.
2. Reduces quality of life and expectancy
As mentioned, around 9 in 10 people are exposed to unclean air, which has become a cause of a shortening life span. Diseases due to air pollution have been increasing. According to WHO, around 7 million people die from air pollution. With suspended particles and pollutants in the environment, it increases risks in the development stages and can hinder a child’s IQ. Apart from the young population, the older population is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s due to air pollutants.
3. Loss of Biodiversity correlates with reducing nutritional value in food
Over the past five decades, human pollution has adapted to a diet with only 12 crops and around five animal species. This provides over 75% of the world’s energy intake. Besides this, it has been estimated that 1 out of 3 people suffer from diet-related cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
4. Pollution has threatened billions worldwide
It is known that many health-related issues and loss of biodiversity have been linked to pollution. It has threatened billions worldwide and contributes to lower life expectancy. Furthermore, industrial discharge from manufacturers has increased the risk of cholera, polio, dysentery, and other diseases. Another interesting statistic by the WHO suggests that over 25 million people are exposed to acute pesticide pollution.
5. Climate change triggers additional risks to health and safety
Climate change has induced a negative feedback loop causing unexpected events worldwide. This has also increased deaths due to increased natural disasters. Apart from this, climate change has affected the growth of microbes, facilitating the spread of viruses. Hence, the chances of pandemics reoccurring are relatively high.
6. Loss of Biodiversity affects the scope & efficacy of medicines
The demand for medicines has been increasing yearly, with new diseases affecting life expectancy. While this is the case, high demand also increases the need for raw materials. This has become a risk for rare plant species, and its direction can lead to their extinction.
What does the UN Office Spokesperson have to say about this Human Right?
As the UN Declares a Healthy Environment a Human Right, it will help reduce environmental injustices. It will help empower people in vulnerable situations such as ecological activities, people at risk from hazards, and others. This Human right will help empower the Indigenous Citizens, women, youth, children, and those actively involved in triple Earth crisis awareness. Apart from this, countries will also accelerate their plans on environmental factors for a cleaner, greener, and sustainable environment as this Human right makes it an obligation.
The Bottom Line
As the UN Declares a Healthy Environment a Human Right, it has come a long way from the 1972 Stockholm Declaration. From regional agreements to universal recognition, the right to Healthy Environment has finally made it into the global landscape. The bright side is that all countries will be working on this. Although many countries have shown interest, few have opted out of this decision.
Countries like China, Russia, Cambodia, Belarus, Iran, Ethiopia, and Kyrgyzstan have abstained from voting. However, on the bright side, more than 100 countries will work collectively to resolve the climate crisis with this Human Right as an obligation to create a Healthy Environment. Hence, as the UN Declares a Healthy Environment, Human Rights awareness about the triple climate crisis has been gaining traction.
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