Environmental Human Rights

MDEHR North Star

Goal: The Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights is dedicated to creating a constitutional right to a healthy and healthful environment, including clean air, clean water, healthy soil and a stable climate for all Marylanders, now and for future generations.

Explaining our Name:

Maryland – We work for and with the people of the State of Maryland. Though our waters, air, climate, soils, neighborhoods and we ourselves  are the creation of the unbounded flow of earth’s many life-systems, we are focused on the legal and attitudinal changes we can make here in Maryland.

Campaign – We are not about just one particular bill, or one particular legislative achievement. Our goal is to assure the health of nature and communities for the benefit of everyone, everywhere, with equity, today and tomorrow.  This will take an amendment, plus legislation, plus regulations, plus a change in society’s understanding of humanity’s right relationship with earth. This is not a one-and-done campaign. It will take a village, a coalition, a community, a movement over many years to get this done.  We are only one part of it.

Environmental – This refers to the miracle of this earth, the ability of nature to regenerate itself, to evolve and nurture dynamic ecosystems. It means celebrating this planet’s unique abundance of Being, and the ways that it supports the myriad life-forms it does. As humans have become a geo-physical force, we must be aware of our awesome capacity to alter the earth and use that power humbly, wisely and well.

The Campaign works for the health of the environment.

Human – This refers to the communion between humans and the planet. The environment is not a platform upon which life is performed. The environment is the dynamic essence  that gives birth to and sustains all life. It flows through us. It is in every breath of air, every bite of food, every sip of water, everything we touch. Everything. How we treat the environment is how we treat each other.

The campaign works for the health of all people.

Rights –  We all enter this world with the same inalienable rights to fresh air, clean water, a stable environment and a self-regenerating eco-system. These rights are shared by anyone who ever was, or ever will be. No matter our race, gender, parentage, zip code or generation, every child who enters this world claims the same privileges to enjoy earth’s common gifts. Those are privileges with which each of us is endowed and no other human, no government, can take them away. 

The campaign works for environmental justice.

We pursue our goals in three ways:

Constitutional environmentalism 

We seek to pass a state constitutional amendment for environmental human rights – placed in our state’s Declaration of Rights – that assures that everyone has access to a healthy and healthful environment that supports their pursuit of “health, well-being, dignity, culture and fulfillment,” as the Global Pact for the Environment states. This amendment would protect those rights; confer standing on those unable now to fight for these rights; and  provide enduring protection for a healthy and healthful environment at the highest level the law allows.  It would also assure that the government is the trustee of the State’s natural resources, protecting and preserving them for current and future generations.

Legislative environmentalism

We seek to pass supportive legislation that would help define the parameters of this amendment, promoting and ensuring the implementation of the rights of clean water, clean air, a stable climate and a healthy and healthful environment for all. We seek to endorse and work toward the passage of such legislation promoted by fellow organizations that lie at the intersection of environmental health, public health and environmental justice.

Regulatory environmentalism The Maryland Environmental Policy Act, passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 1973,  declared that “each person has a fundamental and inalienable right to a healthful environment,” and required all State agencies to “identify, develop and adopt methods and procedures” to enforce this policy. Yet MEPA still awaits state agencies to fully flesh out appropriate rules and regulations. We will work with community organizations and state agencies to craft such policies and assure their implementation.