Tag Archives: environmental rights

“Climate Refugee”: Misnomer or Opportunity?

by Leeja Miller


The term “climate refugee” has been used frequently in the media and elsewhere to refer to the growing number of people being displaced by rising sea levels, land degradation, and large-scale natural disasters due to climate change.[1] The legal protections afforded to these displaced people are murky, however, and international legal definitions of who is considered a “refugee” leave those displaced by the effects of climate change largely without remedy. Developments in national and international jurisprudence and adaptive interpretations of international treaties may, however, mark the beginning stages of an international movement towards recognizing and granting legal protections to climate refugees.

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temporary protected status trump administration

The Right to the Environment of El Salvadoran Recipients of TPS

by Jessica Johnson


The Right to the Environment of El Salvadoran Recipients of TPS

In January and February 2001, two massive earthquakes decimated the country of El Salvador, causing the devastation of land and homes as well as economic strife. After the disaster, the United States granted El Salvadoran nationals Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”), a status designated to a country suffering from a natural disaster, war, or other extraordinary circumstances that prevent nationals from residing there safely. The status has been periodically extended, as is permissible under the statute while poor conditions persist.[1]

In March 2018, President Donald Trump announced the end of Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) for over 200,000 El Salvadoran immigrants to the United States. Trump’s justification for deporting hundreds of thousands of El Salvadorans is that “original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist”, coupled with a persistent desire to tighten border security.[2] However, the U.S. renewed the status in 2016 and cited to ongoing effects of the earthquakes, including severe drought impacting food security, economic loss due to inability to harvest, infrastructure challenges, a lack of potable water, and resulting strife and violence stemming from these problems.[3] Without the political stability and security needed to deal with these environmental issues, they persist today.[4]

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agroterrorism food crop

Environmental Rights and Biological Agroterrorism

by Emma Dismukes


Agroterorrism is a form of environmental human rights offense. When an individual, group, or government intentionally introduces disease into the food production system, the results are detrimental to the public health and economic stability of the community.[1] The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment has recognized the rights of people to enjoy a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.[2] Agroterorrism directly undermines this right. This is a modern-day approach to biological warfare and is easily defined. There are instances, as scientific knowledge grows and adapt, that are not as black and white as they once appeared. These developments in technology may require an updated understanding of Agroterrorism and its impact on the human right to the environment.

Removing the autonomy of a subset of the community who most directly rely on the land for their wellbeing, and thereby limiting their access to cultivate food and earn a livable wage, is cruel and manipulative.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “[a]groterrorism is a threat to national security and could result in increased human illnesses and deaths, widespread destruction of crops and livestock, and significant economic loss to the Nation’s farmers and ranchers.”[3] Attacks on agriculture affects both the national economy, as well as community well-being and security,[4] particularly “in the event of a public health scare resulting from foodborne outbreaks or the spread of animal pathogens contagious to humans.”[5]

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jesner ruling alien tort

Jesner Is Not The End Of Environmental and Human Rights Litigation Against Transnational Corporations

by Raphael B. Hirsch


On May 29th, 2018 transnational corporations celebrated the narrow victory of Jesner v. Arab Bank of Jordan, PLC. Critics incorrectly argue that domestic federal litigation against transnational corporations for human rights violations have been extinguished. They are wrong. First of all, the Alien Tort Statute as a mechanism for holding transnational corporations liable in American Courts for actions committed abroad was already on its way out before Jesner was decided. Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., served to preclude suits against foreign corporations when the relevant conduct occurred outside of the United States. Thus, Jesner’s narrow holding that foreign transnational corporations may never be sued under the Alien Tort Statute should come as no surprise to anyone. Secondly, in what appears to be politically motivated, the court was unwilling to assert dominance over a Jordanian company, as Jordan is a strong ally of the United States in the Middle East.

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adams purple garden

Guerilla Gardening and Community Building as a Challenge to Local Laws

by Thera McAvoy


In urban spaces with few green spaces, that may also act as food deserts, some people chose to begin gardening on public or privately owned land without permission. Guerilla gardening is the act of planting gardens in urban spaces, often without any kind of legal right to use the land.[1] Forms of guerilla gardening vary widely, and can range from throwing seed bombs (Made of dirt, clay, compost, water, and seeds intended to germinate where they fall.), moss graffiti painted on walls, or planting full gardens and maintaining them.[2]

Guerilla gardeners are motivated by a lot of different forces. Some are trying to fight deserts in areas the don’t have ready access to supermarkets or produce stores through practices such as grafting fruit bearing tree limbs onto non fruit bearing city trees.[3] Seed bombing can function as a way to green and beautify neglected public spaces and vacant lots.[4] Others want to show how land should be used and managed, and how their local governments are failing to make use of empty land.[5] This runs the risk that much of the land used for gardening is often being used illegally–either through trespassing against private owners or through using public land against local ordinances.

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flint michigan water crisis

The Right to Clean Water- The Flint, Michigan Story

by Cassondra Britton


“How could this happen?” this question was repeated when discussing the tragedy that had befallen Flint, Michigan. In 2014 thousands of Flint residents began noticing their water had begun to look, taste, and smell funny.[1] By 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Virginia Tech indicated dangerous levels of lead in the water at residents’ homes.[2] However, these tests came too late, many children and adults had dangerous levels of lead in their blood with no remedy[3]. After the Flint, Michigan story broke out the people across the United States began to fundraise and raise awareness of the tragedy using their own money to provide bottled water for the residents. Why was this necessary in the United States shouldn’t the government be in charge of that?

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