Environmental Ethics

Volume 22, Issue 2, Summer 2000

Shari Collins-Chobanian
Pages 133-148

Beyond Sax and Welfare Interests

In “The Search for Environmental Rights,” Joseph Sax argues that each individual should have, as a right, freedom from environmental hazards and access to environmental benefits, but he makes clear that environmental rights do not exist and their recognition would truly be a novel step. Sax states that environmental rights are different from existing human rights and argues that the closest analogy is welfare interests. In arguing for environmental rights, I follow Sax’s direction and draw from the work of those who are the most relevant in establishing environmental rights. I consider Joel Feinberg’s notion of welfare interests, Henry Shue’s notion of basic rights, and James Nickel’s right to a safe environment. I draw from Mill’s harm principle, the superfund legislation, and the Clean Air Act to illustrate the existing ethical and legal bases for establishing environmental rights. Finally, I discuss positive and negative duties that such rights might carry

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