Wednesday, 27th january 2021 | Environment
Marco Arezio - Consulente materie plastiche - The Healthy Environment is our Duty

From the anthropocentrism of rights to that of duties

From a legal point of view, we can guarantee sustainable development only by stating that the current generation has an obligation to deliver a non-deteriorating planet to future generations.

The environment is firmly at the top of the policy agenda and the focus of the attention of the media and ordinary people. 

Global warming, Paris Agreement, encyclical of Pope Laudato si’, Case Urgenda, circular economy: under media pressure and gripping by the concern that arises from the subjective perception of climate change, no one can today call themselves out of the discussions on the environment.

Everyone claims to live in a healthy environment and even the right, in its various joints, strives to give shape to such a legal situation, also to make it justiceable.

But can we really encamp rights and claims to nature? 

Events such as frequent natural disasters show that it is a profound illusion to claim to be legally living in a particular natural context (because this, technically, means being the holders of a right), that it is precisely healthy. 

And when the environment or its elements are not “healthy” (think of dangerous animals), the prospect of subjective law appears insufficient, nor can this lack of protection be compensated by accessing the hypocrisy of animal law: law is a cultural construction of man and man is the protagonist (can the tree act in court? Who can stand up to his representative?).

Looking at the problem from a legal point of view, we cannot abandon anthropocentrism.

The problem arises from the fact that the anthropocentrism of the right to the healthy environment does not satisfy us: it risks being a somewhat hypocritical mechanism, stiffens the legal plot and appears emptied of the capacity to attack real problems or an instrument too strong in the hands of a select few. On a more general level, then, it reflects the idea of a man – ruler who encamps the claim to exploit nature and ends up dequoting all that is not instrumental to the well-being of the proprietor.

 The truth is much simpler. 

  The environment, for man, also legally, is the object not of a right, but of a duty of protection, from a point of view of responsibility. 

It is enough to look at the principles of environmental matter to realize that they express a very obvious content of dutifulness.

Animal protection can also be better ensured by exploiting our responsibilities, rather than by invoking empty legal claims of those who will never be able to exercise them.

The discipline of the sector, then, is literally chock-full of duties.

The basic principle of all others, sustainable development, finally, confirms the correctness of this perspective and shows that the The real centre of gravity of legal discipline on the environment is the duty to protect mankind:the present generation has an obligation to give future generations an environmental context no worse than the inherited one.

We need to move from the anthropocentrism of rights to the anthropocentrism of duties. 

This is a cultural waste, which aims to highlight our responsibilities, victims or aggressors. 

In the face of scientific uncertainty and the extraordinary complexity of the problem, this attitude requires us to act wisely and with extreme caution, each in its own specific scope of action: environmental issues cannot be solved only by economics,ethics, science or law, instead imposing a joint effort.

An attitude perhaps to be recovered after the exaltation also deresponsabilizing of the rights of recent decades and that suggests to evaluate with a certain distrust those who, proposing absolute certainties, pretend to simplify a question steeped in inextricable ethical and axiological value.

Speaking of respect for future generations: as the most contains the least, attention and caution also needs to be towards the current one, so that it does not convince the prospect of pointing out some of its exponents as the privileged spokesman – but how conscious? of the environment or future generations, dimensions that do not need representatives, but who claim suffered respect (wanted is every reference to the Thunberg case).

Fabrizio Fracchia, ordinary in the Department of Legal Studies of Bocconi University in Milan

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