Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993, has investigated human rights abuses around the globe, with special expertise on issues of justice and accountability for atrocities committed[…]
Roth does not necessarily see it as an advantage.
The . . . At a certain level you can say that, you know, because global warming could harm many of our lifestyles – it could actually jeopardize the lives of people – that it would implicate human rights. But I don’t see a big advantage to calling this a human right issue. You know it’s sufficient to say that global warming is an enormous environmental problem. It’s something we need to deal with. I don’t see huge value added to say, “Oh and by the way, it implicates the right to life, or the right to healthcare, or the right to this or that.” Or even a right to a clean environment. I mean adding that rhetorical rights language doesn’t add appreciable weight to the arguments against global warming. So there is a tendency to view rights as the trump card that . . . that, you know, will sort of get you to prevail in any political conflict. But . . . but there are limits to that, and I don’t see tremendous value added on the issue of global warming. If it comes to, say, governments repressing environmental activists, or if it . . . that’s a rights issue. If it comes to, say, governments shutting down the press so that the press won’t report on their environmentally destructive __________; or the environmentally destructive farming practices or what have you – those are rights issues. There are many ways in which the human rights cause can advance the environmental movement or many other movements. But that doesn’t mean that you have to treat every other movement as a rights issue in and of itself. There’s a risk of cheapening the concept of rights which . . . which we need to protect as a . . . as a kind of a core element, and it doesn’t add anything.
Recorded on: 8/14/07