Page 273 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

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Hyperdome, and he tells vivid stories of the scenes of panic-stricken Tuggeranite families buying hoses and food supplies. Nobody knew what they needed, but everyone felt as if they needed something. This has been a familiar scene over the last two years. We have seen that in times of crisis people will do everything—and all at once—to protect themselves, their families and their homes. What will it take to get government to do everything, and all at once, to prevent and mitigate the worst of environmental disaster?

The pandemic has brought to the forefront of our minds the precarity of our futures and the relationship between consumption, the environment and inequality. The collective exhaustion of the present moment is evidence of the depth of fear we have about our future and the need we have to fight for it. Conceptualising the health of the environment as a human right is centred in the deep interconnection between people and this world we inhabit. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the custodianship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have lived sustainably on these lands for time immemorial. Their enduring sovereignty is central to this discussion, as are the issues of treaty and justice. As the Uluru Statement From the Heart explains:

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished …

As the ACT Greens spokesperson for young people, and just narrowly inching out Mr Pettersson as the youngest member of this place, I strongly support this motion put forward by my Greens colleague Jo Clay. You see, climate change presents policymakers like us with a deep moral duty to future generations—our children, our nieces, nephews and niblings. Enshrining the right to a healthy environment is an act of intergenerational justice.

Early last year, eight young Australians successfully brought a courageous and ambitious case against the federal Minister for the Environment, arguing that the minister had a responsibility to protect future generations from harm caused by environmental degradation and climate change. In bringing their case, these young people demonstrated the role of young people in leading action on climate change. They were successful in proving to the court that policymakers have a duty of care to young people and to those not yet even born.

In October the UN Human Rights Council agreed with this principle too, passing the resolution that led to this motion, stating:

… the protection of the environment, including ecosystems, contribute to and promote human well-being and the enjoyment of human rights, including the rights to life, to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, to an adequate standard of living, to adequate food, to housing, to safe drinking water and sanitation and to participation in cultural life, for present and future generations …

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