Your Environmental Rights


“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

For more information check



  1. Frank Brown says:

    Congratulations to Dr. Boyd who has recognized what we in Canada need to do to change our national environmental posture. But with the the Harper government, don’t expect them to follow the pattern of Sweden any time soon. The term environment was not mentioned in the last Speech from the Throne. Go figure.

  2. sam chuns says:

    I agree with Mr. Boyd.
    Healthy Environment should be a
    Human’s Right in Canada.
    Canadian Government should make logging of Old Growth Forest illegal.

  3. colin gray says:

    Mr. Boyd has highlighted the “hodgepodge” of environmental policies in Canada and I must agree very strongly. As a retired Environment Canada scientist, I was discouraged to find out late in my career that federally developed guidelines (which were science based) for pollutants in air, water & soil were not consistently adopted by the Provinces let alone enforced. In fact, the provinces already had an unreasonable influence on the selecting the guidelines(or standards)through their majority power on the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment(CCME) which promulgated the guidelines. The guideline levels were usually set by this committee at higher concentrations than the science based studies recommended.

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