A Brief History of Environmental Justice

Essay by Wolfgang Sachs in a special issue of the magazine Böll.Thema

  • News 14.06.2022

From 2 to 3 June, the United Nations (UN) and the Swedish government are hosting the international environmental conference "Stockholm+50" to mark the 50th anniversary of the first World Environment Conference and the founding of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1972. At this conference, agreements are to be reached above all to accelerate the implementation of global sustainability goals that emerge from the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of 1993. The Heinrich Böll Foundation is accompanying the anniversary and the "Stockholm+50" conference with a special issue of Böll magazine.

This issue includes an essay by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Sachs, Senior Expert at the Wuppertal Institute. In "The gluttons and the hungry", the scientist raises the question of responsibility for the environment and how this duty to planet Earth can be distributed evenly among the people, cultures and societies that inhabit it. His brief history of environmental justice provides a concise and understandable summary on how the view of environmental protection has changed since 1970 and what this means for human rights and international justice.

"At birth, all human beings acquire a fundamental right to live on a hospitable planet – that is the essence of human rights – and one third of the world's population depends on direct access to nature for their livelihoods", Wolfgang Sachs explains. The world's economic divide between states continues in the ecological one and with wealth not only the ecological footprint increases, but also the responsibility. For Sachs, it is indispensable and absolutely necessary that industrialised countries reduce their emissions and support poorer countries financially so that they can preserve their biodiversity and designate natural habitats as protected areas. From the environmental movements of the 1970s to Russia's war of invasion against Ukraine, he offers his perspective on the world order in the face of the great challenge of protecting the environment while doing justice to all people – especially when it comes to living from and with nature.

The Essay "The gluttons and the hungry" is available free of charge via the following link.

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