Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: Ecology and Human Rights in Gioconda Belli’s Waslala
Gioconda Belli’s futuristic novel Waslala reveals the many tensions that arise when one explores human rights within a context of planetary ecological crisis. While the novel criticizes human exploitation of natural resources and the resultant differential development and economic inequality, at the same time it affirms access to and control of resources as a fundamental human right. Using Steve Stern and Scott Straus’s framework of the “human rights paradox” and Jason Moore’s description of the “Capitalocene,” I argue that Waslala demonstrates two fundamental tensions between human rights and environmental issues. First, the novel shows how attention to the universal principles of global ecological balance may undermine the human rights of individuals constrained by geography or economic class. Second, it demonstrates how the human right to property is implicated in global ecological crisis. Although Waslala purports to privilege human rights over ecological concerns, at the same time it highlights the impossibility of separating the two, prompting a rethinking of the definition and practice of human rights within the context of global ecology.
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