Is Access to Natural Resources a Human Right?
Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies (a joint appointment at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst), and Director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies (PAWSS), a position he has held since 1985. Before assuming his present post, he served as Director of the Program on Militarism and Disarmament at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. (1977-84).
Professor Klare has written widely on U.S. defense policy, the arms trade, and world security affairs. He is the author of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum (Metropolitan Books, 2004), along with many other books. He is also the defense correspondent of The Nation, a Contributing Editor of Current History, and has contrbuted to numerous publications.
Michael Klare serves on the board of directors of the Arms Control Association, and the advisory board of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch; he is also a member of the Committee on International Security Studies of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Question: Is access to oil and water a human right?
Michael Klare: I think access to water is a human right. So, that’s the beginning point. Yes, I think people need to have water, because you cannot survive without it. You cannot go more than a day or so without water, so in my mind that’s human right. You cannot also feed yourself without water, water is absolutely essential for the production of food. So, even if you have enough water for drinking that’s only the beginning of it, now you must have water to produce food, so in that sense it is a human right. Oil is different. I don’t think you have a right to oil, especially oil to drive an inefficient vehicle when you can be traveling by other means by public transportation, by walking, by bicycle. I do think that communities have an obligation to provide people with energy options that get them out of their cars, so that we should be using this time of high gasoline prices and economic recession to rethink the way we organize our communities to invest in better public transit, to built bike paths, to give people energy options, other than the ones that we rely on, so that we can come out of this time stronger as a community, as a nation, and face the future in better shape, because we will never go back to the time of oil plenty, that time will never go back again, it is finished, it is over for all time.
Access to water is a human right, Klare says. Access to a gas-guzzling SUV isn’t.
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