Charter of Environmental Rights and Responsibilities

When I first started working with my colleague, John Robinson, at UBC, when we were building the Sustainable Development Research Institute (SDRI), one of the first things I started to think about was the meaning of rights but without any responsibilities. Without the latter, how meaningful are the former? As one of my first tasks at SDRI, I wrote this Charter of Environmental Rights and Responsibilities in 1992. At that time, I wrote that if decisions are not made and acted upon now about how to live more sustainably, a threshold of irreversibility will be reached and options for future generations foreclosed.

The book by Andres Edwards, entitled The Sustainability Revolution: A Portrait of a Paradigm Shift, is a wonderful compendium of the efforts to implement sustainable development, including charters such as The Earth Charter, principles such as The Precautionary Principle and the CERES Principles, processes such as The Natural Step and the International Standards Organizations (ISO) 14000, strategies, and policies such as environmental assessments and green taxes. An excellent primer for those starting out and, for those of us who are getting old, to remind us of all the work that has been invested. It makes me question once again, as Robinson and I stated in 1995, we have enough science, we have enough information to act now, why aren't we acting before we reach the threshold of irreversibility?

You can view each of the 13 principles by opening our interactive map of the Charter of Environmental Rights and Responsibilities (accessed by clicking the link below). To read each of the principles, move your cursor over each of the pictures and click on a picture to open up a larger view of the image and corresponding principle. If you are having difficulties accessing the interactive map, click here to open the PDF version of the Charter.