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Environmental Rights

By MARY ELIZABETH MCKINNELL

Abstract

In this thesis I address the claim that theories of moral rights are incompatible with environmental concerns. This claim is often made on the grounds that rights are too individualistic and human-centred. I attempt to answer this, not on the grounds that it misrepresents all theories of rights or that these concerns are not important, but rather by demonstrating that concepts of environmental rights can be developed that will do this work. I argue that rights are dynamic concepts which have altered over their history to accommodate new challenges and problems (a fact frequently disguised by the often rigid and legalistic frameworks of twentieth-century rights theories) and that their associations with individualism and agency should not be seen as central to the ‘core’ concept of a right.\ud \ud I examine various cases that might be regarded as difficult for ‘traditional’ theories, including the rights of future people, groups and animals. I show that certain theories are unable to account for moral rights in these cases (especially, but not only, ‘choice theories’ of the kind espoused by H. L. A. Hart). I develop an account of what an adequate theory of environmental rights must involve. This includes the suggestion that there are ‘essentially’ environmental rights which are not derivable from any of the traditional basic rights. I base this claim on the role that environment plays in identity on a number of interlinked levels. I argue that the ways in which we are involved in and dependent upon our environments are just as fundamental to who and what we are as the ways in which we are autonomous and independent. A theory of rights that places liberty and independence alone at the heart of the self will then rely on an impoverished and unbalanced view of how we relate to the world.\u

Topics: environment rights philosophy politics identity
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.dur.ac.uk:261
Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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