Newsblog: Environmental Rights Amendment


Include the “Right of Each Person to Clean Air and Water and a Healthful Environment”
in the State’s Constitution

Mike Zamm

A constitution is a basic statement of values. It incorporates the beliefs, and to some extent the norms, of a societal structure be it an organization, city, state, or nation. By necessity it must be a living, evolving document, adaptable to changes in society. At the same time there are enduring values that should be enshrined in foundational documents.

Belief in a healthful environment is a basic value that most Americans and New Yorkers adhere to. We may disagree on the specific policies that are employed to actualize that value but we agree on the underlying principle.

New Yorkers have an opportunity to reinforce that value by voting for an amendment to the New York State Constitution “Question #2” in the Proposals section of their mail-in ballot or in early in-person voting or on Election Day, November 2nd. 

The amendment, which was approved in a bipartisan vote by two successive sessions of the State Legislature, reads, “Each person shall have the right to clean air and water and a healthful environment”.

This is an important addition to the New York State Constitution and if approved by the voters New York will join six other states (Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) and a number of countries, in enshrining environmental rights in their foundational document. In fact, Ecuador has gone so far as to include the “Rights of Nature” itself in its constitution, meaning that humans have a responsibility to protect and preserve the natural world. 

Placing environmental rights in the constitution would require lawmakers to consider the impact on clean water, clean air and the environment when making decisions regardless of the background, zip code or economic class of the citizens affected by those decisions. 

Inclusion of environmental rights would provide the same fundamental protection currently provided by our rights to free speech, freedom of religion and due process.

Polling by Siena College shows that 92% of New Yorkers are concerned about water pollution, 90% about air quality and 80% support the proposed amendment.

Hopefully New Yorkers upstate and downstate will enthusiastically vote for Question 2 and place New York in the forefront of the movement to provide a better quality of life for all. 


Fact Sheets – Environmental Advocates NY,
Environmental Rights for all New Yorkers (PDF)

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