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Commissioner for Fundamental Rights Ákos Kozma and Deputy Commissioner for the Protection of Future Generations Gyula Bándi Urge a New Approach to Environmental Protection on the Occasion of Earth Day

“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”                               (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ 2015, 160)

The Fundamental Law provides enhanced protection to the natural and cultural heritage of our nation, and imposes the obligation to protect the interests of future generations on all of us. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and his Deputy Commissioner for the Protection of Future Generations jointly draw attention to the fact that the above requirements set out in the Fundamental Law are only met if they are properly reflected in legislation and official decisions, thereby ensuring that the right to a healthy environment is enforced in all parts of our country, and everyone acknowledges that his or her daily decisions can directly affect the state of our environment, as well as the equal opportunities of present and future generations.

The pandemic, which has fundamentally turned the daily operations of our world upside down, has demonstrated with an overwhelming force the underlying tensions, bordering on intolerability, in the relationship between human and nature, economy and environment. The remarkable improvement in the state of the environment during the pandemic became apparent within a very short time, following the partial shutdown of the economy, making it evident how much pressure industrial civilisation and globalisation had put on nature. In the proximity of ​​major cities and large industrial zones, the air has become significantly cleaner, which is also visible from space. The world’s oil consumption and the associated CO2 greenhouse gas emissions have dropped to an unprecedented extent, while wild animals are taking over those habitats from which they have been driven away by the masses of people and motorisation. 

As our life transitions hopefully back to normal, we will not be in a position to continue exactly from where we were forced to stop due to the state of danger. The state of emergency has made it clear to us that the current order of the world economy and world trade does not only exert an unnecessary environmental impact, but it constitutes a significant supply risk as well. Local and accessible human-scale economy has become appreciated from one day to another. Human-scale communities, the lack of which we feel most painfully these days, are even more important than before, as well as the almost forgotten traditional values, such as family, smaller communities, local initiatives, solidarity and the power of personal example.

In the course of re-planning our life after the pandemic, we must pay particular attention to the protection of health, especially environmental health. Examining the specificities of the pandemic, it has become clear that a healthy environment plays a crucial role in maintaining the resilience of human organisms. The mortality rate was significantly higher in areas with high air pollution than in those closer to nature. It has become obvious that, similarly to clean drinking water, clean air or healthy food, environmental protection and nature conservation are also key to one’s survival. This is especially true for our children and grandchildren, the generations not yet born, whose future is now in our hands. The examples of the rapidly regenerating environment are sending us the signal that it is not too late to change our current practices.

In the course of restarting the economy, as well as designing development programmes, town and spatial planning , we must strive to establish conditions as close to the nature as possible. Strategic programmes on sustainable development in Hungary are already available, our duty is to take them into account in our everyday practice much more seriously than before.