Human Rights: The Commons and the Collective
International law has evolved to protect human rights. But what are human rights? Does the term have the same meaning in a world being transformed by climate change and globalized trade? Are existing laws sufficient to ensure humanity's survival?
Drawing on case law and practice and examples from philosophy, law, and ecology, Laura Westra argues that the current system is not adequate: international law privileges individual over collective rights, permitting multinational corporations to overlook the collectivity and the environment in their quest for wealth and power. Unless policy makers redefine human rights and reformulate environmental law and policies to protect the preconditions for life itself -- water, food, clean air, and biodiversity -- humankind faces the complete loss of the ecological commons, the preservation of which is one of our most basic human rights. A new kind of cosmopolitanism, one centred on the United Nations, offers the best hope for preserving our common heritage and the survival of future generations.