Biodiversity and Human Rights

We are currently experiencing a biodiversity crisis – the sixth great extinction of species and the first man-made one.[1] This monumental biodiversity loss has enormous consequences for ecosystems and their ability to function and regenerate – and thus for all of us as well.

Despite the urgency of this challenge, the human rights field has been slow to take on biodiversity loss. ERA launched this line of work to fill this gap. Working with scientists, litigators, scholars, and researchers – as well as NYU clinical students – ERA pursues projects that clarify the link between biodiversity and rights and tackle the biodiversity emergency and its rights implications. This includes, for example, developing innovative legal claims around the importance of underground networks and underground biodiversity for the health of ecosystems and environmental and Indigenous rights.

ERA has also conducted the first systematic survey of global rights-based biodiversity cases, which has been compiled into a database for use by the broader field. This research, moreover, has been used to identify a nascent “rights turn” in biodiversity litigation, similar to that evident in climate litigation in the early to mid-2010s.

This line of work also includes ERA’s longstanding collaboration with prominent scientific partners on the Fauna, Flora, Funga Initiative, which aims to write fungi – crucial to the health of ecosystems, yet typically neglected by decisionmakers – into conservation and agricultural policy frameworks, protect it under international and domestic law, and unlock crucial funding for mycological research, surveys, and educational programs.

[1] See, e.g., Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014).

Flora Fauna Funga Initiative

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