Your Environmental Rights

Environmental lawyer David Boyd, PhD’10, thinks a healthy environment should be a constitutional right.


“The recognition of the constitutional right to a healthy environment has meant cleaner water for millions of people, cleaner air for tens of millions of people, [and] protection for endangered species ranging from salamanders to sharks in countries around the world.”
- David R. Boyd

On a trip to Stockholm, environmental lawyer and author David Richard Boyd, PhD’10, was stunned to see citizens fishing for salmon from city bridges.  This was not possible thirty years ago. But within one generation, Sweden's rigorous environmental policies have created changes that “you can taste, see and smell,” he says.

While Sweden has one overarching environmental strategy, Boyd noted in his 2003 book Unnatural Law: Rethinking Canadian Environmental Law and Policy that Canada has 24 different federal departments and agencies developing, administering and updating 28 ad hoc policies.

Almost a decade later, Canada's environmental strategy remains a series of hodgepodge policies, and Boyd remains steadfast in his belief that a singular environmental vision leads to tangible results. For him, Sweden's environmental successes serve as a blueprint for measurable and attainable targets.

Last Year, Boyd worked with Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vancouver's Greenest Action Team to develop 10 long-term goals modelled on Sweden’s approach. The resulting report written by Boyd, Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future (PDF),  is Vancouver's pledge to be the greenest city on earth by 2020. The actions suggested are definitive and realistic. As part of the plan, UBC students will pair up with mentors to build green capacity in projects ranging from eliminating dependence on fossil fuels to creating zero waste.

Putting policy into action is a common thread in Boyd's writing. His academic writing, like the extensive and well-documented report of Canada's environmental record in Unnatural Law, is often followed by public reports such as Sustainability within a Generation, a “pocket book” approach published by the David Suzuki Foundation. This fall UBC Press will release The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment. Written after completing his PHD at UBC as part of a Trudeau Scholarship, the book examined the constitutions of 140 countries to see if the right to living in a healthy environment is embedded in law.

Teresa Goff met David Boyd in May at Whistler, where he was attending the eighth annual Trudeau Foundation Conference.

The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment

by David R. Boyd
UBC Press (2011)

ISBN 9780774821605 HC Nov 15/11

ISBN 9780774821612 PB Jul 1/12

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