Join us for #WikiForHumanRights: Help share knowledge about human rights and the environment on Wikipedia.

Alex Stinson
Apr 15 · 4 min read
Illustrations by Jasmina El Bouamraoui and Karabo Poppy Moletsane, CC0.

Today, our planet is facing urgent climate and environmental crises. Access to neutral, fact-based, and current information about climate change and other environmental topics plays a critical role in our shared ability to not only understand these interconnected crises, but to also mitigate the causes and adapt for a future healthy for all.

In turn, the role of Wikipedia has never mattered more.

Everyone, everywhere needs access to information about how climate change or environmental degradation impacts their lives. This knowledge is especially critical for communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege, as, in many cases, they will be most impacted. Without access to knowledge, communities cannot advocate for their needs in this changing world. Knowledge powers action, and action powers change.

That is why this month, in celebration of Earth Day, the Wikimedia Foundation is running a #WikiForHumanRights content writing campaign with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Environment Programme, and UNICEF focused on your “right to a healthy environment”. We invite you to join us from 15 April – 15 May. To learn more, join a special live event on 15 April, or visit Meta.

Why the right to a healthy environment?

Compounding environmental crises will continue to have a real and severe impact on people’s lives around the world. As they turn to Wikipedia for information and answers, we must ensure clear, neutral, and reliable information is there for them.

As the world rises to the challenge of climate change, so should Wikipedia.

We are inspired by the work of youth climate activists, such as Vanessa Nakate, Greta Thunberg, Licypriya Kangujam , Helena Gualinga, and the thousands of other young people leading communities into action. If their efforts are any indication, more humans in every part of the world are eager to act in order to create a healthy, livable planet for future generations.

“more humans in every part of the world are eager to act in order to create a healthy, livable planet for future generations.” Image by Nayeem Is. J Preenon, CC-BY-SA 4.0.

So how do we act? Environmental action requires us to know not only the science or policies that can prevent environmental degradation, but the right that we have as humans to a healthy environment that can provide us food, health, water, and ultimately life. The more everyone can learn about their rights, and especially their right to a healthy environment, the more they are equipped to join together with their communities to uphold it — to witness where our current approach leaves gaps in how we steward the ecologies on which we depend.

For communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege, access to this information is even more critical. Extreme weather, failed crops, environmental migration, pollution from extractive industries, and unbuilt public health infrastructure most affect those frequently left out from decision-making. By sharing knowledge about everyone’s human right to a healthy environment, these communities have access to another tool in their fight to make their voices heard.

Why contribute to Wikipedia?

Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects are shared public resources for us to better understand environmental issues and to access that information in various languages and local contexts. In 2020, for the 2,800 articles about climate change alone (not including other environmental issues) Wikipedia had about 300 million pageviews across nearly all of its 300+ languages. Nearly 60 percent of those pageviews were in languages other than English. However, most of the international science about these crises is in English — indicating an alarming gap when it comes to interest in climate change topics and the resources available on Wikipedia.

According to the special rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment David Boyd: 150 countries have the right to a healthy environment in their legal system, creating a growing consensus on this universal right. At time of writing, only three language versions of Wikipedia have an article about that right, and very few articles about human rights or laws from those 150 countries describe how the right to a healthy environment is protected. To defend your rights, you have to know your rights, and Wikipedia is an important place to learn in any language.

Moreover, we know that environmental and human rights defenders the world over are advocating for change. Each advocate and advocacy action sparks new awareness and questions from policy-makers, the public, and future activists.

When the news breaks, the public turns to Wikipedia for a neutral platform that can contextualize the increasingly polarized information environment. Wikipedia is a place where information can be shared in real-time, in hundreds of languages, and in a way that is accessible for everyone, no matter where they are in the world or the language they speak.

So, for this Earth Day, we invite you to do your part for human rights and environmental action: help us expand reliable information about human rights and the intersecting environmental crises we face. Get involved by joining our launch event on 15 April, and find more information on Meta.

Down the rabbit hole

Facts, stories, and people from across the Wikimedia…

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store