James W. Nickel

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In the last twenty-five years, environmentalists have sought recognition for the right to a safe environment (RSE) in national and international fora. As a result, some countries have recognized RSE in their constitutions. Nevertheless, much skepticism exists about whether RSE is a genuine human right, and advocates of RSE still need to persuade critics that this right merits national and international recognition. This paper presents a normative defense of RSE. It argues that a right to a safe environment - defined narrowly - is a genuine human right because it passes appropriate justificatory tests. Part I defends the modest use of the language of rights in expressing environmental norms. Part II offers a narrow account of the scope of RSE. Part III provides a justification for RSE as conceived in part II.

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