A few days ago I was musing about the shift of our consciousness towards the future. Now, reading something about the development of human rights, I learned, that even the law, by nature conservative and dependent on written statements of the past, starts to take future developments into consideration.
The 1987 constitution of the Philippines establishes a Bill of Rights and a catalogue of state policies. In the case “Minors Oposa vs Fulgencio S Factoran” a collective of petitioners argued against a government decision to cancel timber licensing agreements and thus allowing uncontrolled exploitation of the local rainforests. They argued, this action would affect the right to life and health of their generation and the generations yet to come.
This is an appeal to some basic human rights, that the constitution provides for. The government defended its action with the contention, that no legal right was actually violated. It could at best be seen as a breach of the state policies written in the constitution, but they are not legally binding.
The supreme court however found, that it is the duty of the government to manage the counrty’s rainforests in a preserving way. Without them the ecology would be irreparably impaired and thus the possibility to live in an healthy environment endangered. This would also affect the fundamental rights to health and life.
Two things about this are exciting: possible negative consequences for individuals affect a governmental decision. And human rights lead effortlessly to thoughtful interaction with the environment. It shows, how these rights should be conceived: as an interrelated set of intentions to treat “the others” as well as possible.
You can read about it in this book, pp 70f.
The featured picture is from a beautiful site, that I’m going to comment in a sec.