“The dystopian future is already here”: the need for environmental action
For decades, the economic development we have enjoyed has been taking too high a toll on the living beings that inhabit the planet, including people and all their human rights. It is a tendency to believe, in a falsely objective way, that the only possible development is that of the Western countries of the North and that the great achievements of humanity are the progress made thanks to a whole network of people, companies and governments that have savagely plundered our natural resources.
However, this economic and productive development has caused unprecedented environmental destruction and promises an increasingly devastating future for future generations and their human rights. Moreover, the environmental crisis threatens even more strongly the most vulnerable populations and countries with fewer economic resources to address their potential recovery and adaptation to climate change. This is paradoxical when it is known that many of these territories are the ones that contribute the least to the pollution and degradation of the Earth.
Currently, the hegemonic model of economic development is going to have to change by force. Neither the planet nor our own survival can withstand the level of plunder that has been achieved, especially in recent years. It is necessary to explore new ways of “development” in accordance with nature and human rights, and to understand that there are many and diverse ways to “prosper”. Although changes have been made in recent years to try to reverse the situation, the trend remains the same, and in order to achieve the sustainable development envisaged by the 2030 Agenda, structural and systematic changes to our production and consumption system are required, which, to date, have not occurred.
Even so, every day there is a growing awareness in the collective imagination that harmonious coexistence with nature is the only possible development that would allow the full development and enjoyment of our human rights. This shift in consciousness was crystallized in 2021, when the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 48/13 recognizing the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. In it, the Council urged UN member states to adopt policies that would enable and enforce this right, since guaranteeing it would imply respect for the most basic human rights, such as the right to life or the right to food.
Likewise, September 11 marked a significant step forward for environmental protection, as UN High Commissioner Volker Türk expressed his support for the incorporation of “ecocide” as an international crime that can be tried by the International Criminal Court. He stated that the impunity that individuals and companies currently enjoy when it comes to destroying the environment and the need to ensure accountability for their environmental destruction must be combated.
The recognition of the crime of ecocide, understood as the crime of the destruction of our environment, would be a significant step forward, which would make the collective conscience aware that there are consequences for the devastation of our planet. Furthermore, ecocide reveals the importance of caring for the environment, not only because it is our home, but because it is an individual subject that should not be seen as a mere means for our economic growth, but as an equal and deserving of respect in its own right.
“We don’t need any more warnings. The dystopian future is already here,” said Türk on September 11, highlighting the imperative need to curb the polluting and destructive activities of our environment.
The small island states of the Pacific, who are already experiencing this dystopian “future” caused by climate change and seeing their human rights eroded by the day, have set a historic precedent in climate justice. Also on September 11, the Bahamas, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Antigua and Barbuda brought countries that emit large quantities of greenhouse gases before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg. Thus, small island states claim that large greenhouse gas emissions that are absorbed by the marine environment should be considered as pollution.
Those responsible for this massive pollution are causing the destruction of the environment that produces half of the world’s oxygen and is capable of absorbing 25% of carbon dioxide emissions. Our life on earth depends directly on the health of our oceans, so those who emit these large quantities of greenhouse gases endanger natural ecosystems essential to the realization of all our human rights.
Although progress has been made in environmental protection, greater ambition and a real and effective commitment on the part of governments are needed to address the greatest threat of the new century. Thus, from FIBGAR we are firmly committed to the care of the environment and we encourage citizen participation in this area, focusing on young people, who will be the ones who will experience the actions or inactions of our present. To combat the dystopian future of which the High Commissioner speaks, FIBGAR has been fighting for years for the recognition of the crime of ecocide as the fifth international crime and as a safeguard of our planet and our human rights.
Carmen Coleto Martínez, project manager of the environment area.