NYers Don’t Have a Right to Clean Water or Healthy Air
This may surprise you to hear me say it, but New Yorkers don’t have a right to clean water.
Nor healthy air. Nor a safe climate. While many assume so, from a moral and ethical standpoint, most people don’t know that these rights are absent from the State Constitution.
It’s time to change that.
New Yorkers deserve an Environmental Bill of Rights. As the New York State Bar Association noted in a report issued in 2016, “[s]everal other states, such as Pennsylvania and 174 nations, have adopted and implemented constitutional ‘environmental rights.”
A constitutional right to healthy air, clean water, and a safe climate matters because government doesn’t always get it right. When you consider Hoosick Falls, South Albany, and communities across the state — which have faced unimaginable threats from contaminated drinking water and air pollution in industrialized neighborhoods — residents have to fight for protections that should be so basic.
That’s why Environmental Advocates of New York and EffectiveNY have teamed up to help advance an amendment through the Legislature, and to tell the stories of those hurt from the lack of these rights.
There’s Ashlynn, a 10-year-old from Hoosick Falls.
“At home we drink bottled water, we basically do all the stuff with bottled water.”
And Willie White, a community leader and head of the organization, A Village…Inc.
“We’ve identified a lot of different issues: asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, thyroid issues, and on and on and on.”
As well as 10-year-old Lawrence, whose playground and bedroom sit feet from the rail cars carrying toxic and volatile crude headed for the global market.
“This is the basketball court, this is the playground, that’s where I live, and there’s the train tracks.”
And 14-year-old Mikayla.
“It’s ridiculous that we should even have to ask for the right of clean water and clean air.”
The campaign for a Constitutional amendment is in its early stages. In the coming months we will continue to share stories like these and bring more communities into the campaign as legislation is introduced and advanced.
Join our effort today by texting OurAir to 52886!
With the threats to our air, water, and climate we see from the federal government, it matters now more than ever for New York to be a true environmental leader. Together, we can make that happen.