• Phil Webster

Environmental Human Rights in Maryland?

The UU Legislative Ministry of Maryland is supporting a proposed Environmental Human Rights Amendment to the State Constitution. This enabling legislation is sponsored by Delegate Fisher and Senator Smith.

Provisions of the Amendment:

  • Each person has a fundamental and inalienable right to a healthful and sustainable environment and said right shall not be infringed.

  • The state, as trustee, shall protect, conserve, and enhance Maryland’s natural resources, including its air, lands, waters, wildlife, and ecosystems, for the benefit of both present and future generations.

Rabbi Nina Cardin, Director of the Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights (mdehr.org) , spoke to the UULM-MD 2022 Legislative Kickoff. A video of her remarks is here.

As human beings, we depend on clean air, clean water, healthy soil, and a stable environment. Without these essentials, all other rights are jeopardized. As you can see from the image below, Maryland residents face increasing exposure of pollutants in the air, water, and land which have negatively impacted public health with increased rates of lung disorders, heart disease and cancer. Even worse, the pandemic revealed that these disparities in exposure to air pollution also increased the likelihood of developing Covid 19 in black and brown communities.

We can and must do better for our communities: from Maryland landfills with harmful greenhouse gas emissions, to the CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and nitrate pollution on the Eastern shore, to concentrated power plants and superfund sites in Prince George’s and Calvert Counties, to PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) contaminating drinking water in Montgomery County and fish in Piscataway Creek and the Potomac River, and many more.

The consistent thread across these examples is the reality that communities of color and those who live in low-income neighborhoods are the communities bearing the burden of this pollution and the consequences of health disparities. Our state has created systems that reinforce inequity from generation to generation and it’s time to make fundamental changes to those systems.

To amend the Constitution, the bill must pass each house of the Maryland General Assembly with at least 3/5 of the votes. After passage, the proposed amendment becomes a referendum in the November 2022 General Election. The voters decide!

In support the passage of the Environmental Human Rights Amendment, UULM-MD is sponsoring the UU Kids for a Livable Planet, an intergenerational, congregation-based campaign to persuade the Maryland General Assembly of the need for a constitutional amendment for environmental human rights (see: Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights) and is working to pass climate justice and environmental protection bills supported by UULM-MD and our partners. We will also encourage and support the ministers of interested congregations to offer prophetic preaching, and pastoral support, especially for teens and their parents who may be anxious about climate change and disasters.

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