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The right to a healthy environment has been the subject of extensive philosophical debates that revolve around a key question: Should rights to clean air, water, and soil be entrenched in law, in the constitutions of democratic states?
In The Environmental Rights Revolution, David Boyd, one of Canada's leading environmental lawyers, answers this question by moving beyond theoretical debate to measure the practical effects of enshrining the right to a healthy environment in constitutions. His analysis of 193 constitutions and the laws and court decisions of more than 100 nations shows how the constitutional right to a healthy environment has been incorporated in legislation and is being judicially enforced in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Nations with constitutional protections have stronger environmental laws, enhanced enforcement, greater government accountability, and better access to justice, information, and public participation in decision making than nations without such provisions. As a result, they also have smaller ecological footprints, rank higher on comprehensive indices of environmental performance, and have reduced pollution faster.
This important and timely book not only demonstrates that enshrining environmental protection into national constitutions has the power to make sustainability a priority, it tells inspiring stories about the difference the right to a healthy environment is making in people's lives.
David R. Boyd is a leading expert in environmental law and policy and an adjunct professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University.