Dean Gus Speth answers Is Climate Change a Human Rights Issue?

Development is no longer freedom.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: Is climate change a human-rights issue?

Gus Speth: In so many respects climate changes is a human rights issue. In the biggest sense imagine-- remember what Amartya Sen, a famous economist said of development, you know, basically, "Development is freedom." By which he meant that as societies developed, if they did it properly they created new options for people. They opened horizon. They gave people more choices and more alternatives in life to realize their own potential. If we're moving into a world of rapid and destructive climate change, with sea level rises, and heat waves, and flooding, and spread of diseases and all of the other things that climate change could bring; enormous destabilization, vast numbers of ecological refugees, tremendous loss of production from natural areas and farms. If that's the world that we're going into, what we would see is a closing down of options for today's young people and our grandchildren. Where so much of life's energy and political energy is going to be spent defensively dealing with all of these problems that we didn't have to have. And options are narrowing. And in that broad sense it was sort of a reversal of Amartya Sen's vision of development as freedom. It's a curtailment of freedom on the gigantic human scale. Of course, there are many other issues that link into human rights issues. You know, if the Inuit today are losing their livelihoods and their villages, as they are in Alaska, if whole societies are being wiped out on some–- on islands as they are flooded, if societies are destabilized as a, you know, there's a exacerbation of this-- of a problem of cultural sustainability and cultural survival as real human rights issues of that type also.

Recorded: 3/23/08