Book Review – Human Rights and the Environment

Human Rights and the Environment, edited by Dinah L. Shelton. Edward Elgar Publishing Company, 2011. Two volumes; volume 1 – 777 pages, volume 2 – 563 pages. $618.00, hardcover edition.

Human Rights and the Environment is an attempt to present a wide variety of articles related to the rights guaranteed to individuals as far as the environment is concerned. These volumes attempt to address the responsibility of the state to guarantee these rights, how to monitor compliance, and how to regulate non-state actors. With these goals in mind, the editor of these volumes provides a great deal of articles that address these issues from a wide range of viewpoints.

Before actually getting into the format of the books themselves, the editor addresses the need for this resource and the connection between human rights and the environment. The editor gets straight to the point in her introduction by quoting Principle 1 of the Stockholm Declaration: “Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being” [emphasis added]. She also states in her introduction that the awareness of the link between the two areas is growing, but yet environmental law and human rights are still not always addressed in conjunction with each other.

As such, the editor has gathered numerous essays by a multitude of authors attempting to tie these two issues together and address questions related to the two. To ease the study of the topics together, she has divided the book into four parts (two in each volume), addressing theoretical approaches; specific issues and problems; vulnerable populations; and, international texts and jurisprudence.

In arranging the volumes in this manner, Ms. Shelton allows one to follow the path from the basic ideology of human rights through environmental law all the way to what is actually being done in various parts of the world. Along the way, she also continues to present articles demonstrating the need to study the two areas together and the need for environmental law to ensure human rights.

For anybody interested in human rights and/or the environment, this resource is valuable in presenting the topic(s) in a way that may not always be done; the editor ties the two topics together both theoretically and in existing practice. For scholars of the subject area, this resource brings theory and fact together in a way that fully illustrates how dependent human rights can be on environmental law and how environmental law should be fashioned and implemented to guarantee these rights.

Paul D. Venard is reference librarian at the University of Dayton Zimmerman Law Library in Dayton, Ohio.

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