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Reflections on Environmental and Transgenerational Law

by Magali Alvarez
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“The right to development should be exercised in a manner which equitably responds to the development and environmental needs of present and future generations”. (Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration. 1992).

At present, there is an unprecedented global environmental crisis. Although, at different levels of government, various strategies have been generated to try to do something about it, in addition to the continuous actions of organized citizenship, these are not enough. What kind of world are we leaving to children and what can we do today about it, we must reflect on it and decide to act differently, on pain of ending with what was once the habitat of humanity.

The slogan would be more empathy and less selfishness, with attention to the right of children and adolescents to live in a healthy and sustainable environment, and in conditions that allow their development, welfare, healthy and harmonious growth, both physical and mental, material, spiritual, ethical, cultural and social, according to the Lgdnna, article 13, section VII. In tune with this, Sophocles, (496-406 B.C.), wrote in his masterful play called Antigone, who was a bold woman, who disobeyed the law imposed by King Creon by burying her brother, despite the explicit prohibition of the king. When questioned for her action, Antigone responded that there were unwritten and immutable laws superior to those of the king, human in the end, being a priority to follow them before her own. This disruptive way of proceeding of Antigone, highlights the dilemma of obedience to obsolete laws because they are no longer adequate to the current reality, versus superior laws, such as the protection of the environment in any of its forms, which, although often unwritten, are part of a universal good that must be protected.

Antigone can represent a type of order superior to that of human laws, laws of men or positive law, constituting a useful metaphor to emphasize the value of universal ethical principles. Gustav Radbruch, in his formula lex iniustissima non est lex (extreme injustice is not law), expresses that there are laws that cannot be considered as law because they break the principle of justice. Sophocles’ play shows that, since Greek culture, there was a strong concern about universal issues that concern us all without exception.

Human rights can be conceived as those universal ethical principles of which Sophocles spoke in his play, although in a more stylized version, being seen today as values, political agreements and legal norms that refer to a social ideal that includes human relations free of any kind of oppression, where there should not be an unequal exercise of forces, especially if the actions violate the rights of any population at risk, including those of non-human animals, who have been tragically affected in their natural habitats, having to abandon them as a consequence of climate change and disasters that have occurred or are about to occur, perceiving that this will be the case.

The fact that multiple types of non-human animals are going around in circles is not a matter of chance. Something is about to happen, it is being perceived, and as human beings, it is our duty to do something about it. Environmental and Transgenerational Law considers the effects that each action or omission will have for future generations, and although it is contemplated by the legal system of Latin America and other countries of the world, it is necessary to put into practice what has been proposed, overthrowing mercantilist interests with courage along the way.

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