It's time for Maryland as a state, and the United States Federal government, to pass a Green Constitutional Amendment. Clean water and air, and a healthy environment are essential for supporting life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, healthy communities, and healthy economies. Yet, across the U.S. these basic human rights are not recognized as inalienable. Instead, their protection is entrusted to our political system with competing demands; where industry lobbyists and personal political agendas take precedence over the needs of people to a clean and healthy environment, and a stable climate.
Here in the United States, environmental protection is too often given short shrift and protected with less legal strength than other fundamental freedoms such as property rights, free speech, and even gun rights. As a result, communities nationwide are suffering from pollution, environmental degradation, and a climate crisis. Environmental racism is subjecting Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander, other Communities of Color, low-income communities, and future generations to disproportionate environmental harm; making them more vulnerable to disease, cancers, and illness of all kinds. Additionally, environmental racism inflicts economic harm, and deprives impacted communities of the quality of life and educational benefits that healthy environments, water, and air provide.
Environmental pollution, degradation, and racism are not happening in spite of our environmental laws but because of how those laws are written and implemented. Unlike other civil, human, and political rights, there is no constitutional recognition of environmental rights that can hold those in government accountable when they advance pollution-inducing legislation; permit highly polluting activities; ignore cleanup of toxic sites; support industries exacerbating the climate crisis; and perpetuate environmental racism.
It's time to change all of this. In the U.S., we recognize and protect free speech, property rights, religious freedom and other fundamental rights; it is now time to recognize the inalienable rights of all people, including future generations, to drink clean water, breathe clean air, to a stable climate, and to protect all the healthy ecosystems and environments essential to supporting and sustaining healthy lives.
We demand that our United States Congress (as well as the State of Maryland) propose and support an amendment to the Bill of Rights section of our U.S. Constitution (as well as the Maryland Declaration of Rights) that include, at a minimum, the following rights, recognitions, and protections:
• All persons have the natural, inherent and inalienable right to a clean and healthy environment, including water, air, soil, flora, fauna, and ecosystems; the right to a stable climate, and to the equitable protection of the natural, cultural, scenic and healthful qualities of the environment.
• The natural resources of our nation are the common property of all the people, including both present and future generations. The government, including each branch, agency, and political subdivision, shall serve as trustee of these resources and shall conserve, protect, and maintain these resources for the benefit of all the people.
• This provision and the rights stated herein are self-executing and are on par with other protected inalienable rights. The government may not infringe upon these rights.