The right to an adequate standard of living is now a principle concept in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1941 US President Franklin Roosevelt gave a speech called ‘The Four Freedoms’, in which he stipulated that “freedom from want” was one of them. This particular freedom surrounds everyone’s right to shelter and food, and has now been acknowledged to be of such importance that they are concretely considered as perhaps the most basic of human rights.
A world where freedom from want is guaranteed is a world where peace, prosperity and compassion are the order of the day – which is a concept that should ideally be ingrained in all global movements. If this fundamental freedom is taken into account in all areas of global, regional and domestic governance, then it has the potential to universalise access to food, water and shelter to all humans. The French writer, Aymeric Caron, who focuses on the term ‘sphere of consideration’, writes that advancements in ethics and morality stem from the idea that the emancipation of beings, whether they be human or animal, are the result of an enlargement of our sphere of moral consideration. The way in which humans disenfranchise and exploit others, although they may differ in degree and in nature, stem from a similar process whereby on group of beings are excluded from one’s sphere of moral consideration. Freedom from want underlines the importance that all human beings are worthy of moral consideration and that no human should lack food, water and shelter. These are the very basic fundamental human rights that are needed for humans to be able to reach their full moral and social potential. If these rights are not guaranteed in our political system, we are condemning ourselves to an unequal world where everyone is to fend for themselves regardless of their need or ability to secure them.
It is all well and good believing that beings, have a right to certain basic quality of life, but what we now need is to make our action comply with our morals. That is to say in our day-to-day lives we need to behave in such a way that our existence and consumption does not negatively affect another being’s quality of life. We need to, therefore, align our behaviour with our moral standpoint. Today, despite the reduction of absolute poverty, there is still an ever-increasing disparity between the ultra-rich and ultra-poor. We also, to this day, still have people who are severely malnourished in vast expanses of the globe, whilst also having countries where heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity are extremely prevalent issues. If we change how and what we consume we can ensure the significant reduction of both undernourishment and malnourishment, while also greatly reducing the chronic health epidemic caused by over-eating that much of the world faces. For this to happen, we need to change what we ear by switching over to foods that are less land and resource intensive. Our future diet needs to be more plant-based if we are to ensure that human and non-human beings are to have a chance of having a decent quality of life. We all have rights, but we also have responsibilities. We have a right to live a full and happy life, but this should not deter us from our additional and fundamental responsibility to do better.
Marcus Lomax – 8/11/2016