Human Rights and the Environment

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2014

Over the past half century, human rights law and environmental law have made great strides largely independently of one another. This clinical seminar will explore a growing field that seeks to bring the two together. Students will examine how the separate legal frameworks intersect and analyze the strategic advantages and disadvantages of linking them. In some circumstances, environmental protection and human rights promotion benefit each other, while in others, these two worthy causes can be at odds.

Through local and global case studies, students will discuss the use of law to address contemporary issues such as climate change, conservation, environmental justice, extractive industries, the protection of indigenous peoples, and environmental harm caused by armed conflict. They will consider: How should one deal with situations where the interests of human rights and the environment compete? What is the proper balance between addressing present generations needs and protecting future generations interests? Should advocates rely on traditional legal principles or promote emerging rights, for example, the right to a healthy environment? Can currently distinct branches of law inform creation of new law with both humanitarian and environmental benefits?

While learning about this field, students will also build advocacy skills by doing fact-finding, media, and treaty negotiation role plays. A fall clinical practice component in the International Human Rights Clinic is required of all students.