Humans are dependent upon the earth’s resources for food, water, fuel, shelter, health and happiness. For many years evidence has been growing that our environment will not be able to sustain our species forever and that change is happening rapidly. There is now a greater understanding of the earth’s environment, interdependence and connection between living things and the effects of human activity upon the natural world. Governments across the world are grappling with the consequences of climate change and sustaining populations.

Some 97% of climate scientist agree that human activity is responsible for climate change over the past century and there is consensus that we (the human race) needs to take action to mitigate the consequences of human activity on the environment and on the earth’s inhabitants.

Problems arising from environmental change include famine, migration and war with a disproportionate affect on the poor.

International Policy

The following is an extract from the General Statement of Policy adopted at the IHEU General Assembly 2015:

Human development and the environment

Humanists assert the value of the individual living in society and accept a responsibility for cooperating in building a more humane society for all based on social and economic justice. Every member of society should be equipped to participate in the life of the community to the fullest extent that they are able. It is thus a requirement on the community and our social responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to food, safe water, shelter, education, employment and healthcare.

Humanists deplore the present grossly unequal distribution of wealth and resources, not just on the principle of fairness, nor just from the duty we accept to relieve suffering and destitution, but because of the growing empirical evidence that inequitable distribution of incomes in itself produces damaging results for all concerned, including the rich.

We realise that we are all totally dependent on the natural world for our life and well-being. Furthermore we acknowledge an obligation to bequeath to our descendants an earth that offers as good or better an environment for living as we enjoy. But unless we learn to take better care of the Earth’s environment we will put at risk the health and well-being of many living today, and the very survival of those who come after us. Caring for the environment requires attention to the advice of scientists who have studied the ecology of the planet and is likely to include control of the size of the population and reduction of the emission of “greenhouse gasses” and management of resource extraction and use, with a view to the long-term survivability of life on Earth.

Ecohumanists recognise the impact of human activities on the Earth’s resources and champion a responsible approach for the present and future generations that have no voice. Ecohumanism is concerned with the wider good and human flourishing and, in common with progressive environmental groups and green activists, advocates radical solutions for preventing climate chaos that also critique the growth-obsessed, consumerist ideologies of governments that sometimes impact negatively on the planet. Human rights, equality, environmental justice and the need for social change are values which ecohumanists embrace.

Humanists are concerned with a positive view of environmental trusteeship/ stewardship. If as a species we degrade the environment we ultimately degrade the potential of future generations.

Humanists have the potential to add a rational and compassionate voice to those who are already campaigning for better local and global environmental stewardship to improve human welfare and fulfilment.

Humanist Society Scotland recognises the disparity of opinion in the environmental sector and differing views of some members of the society, as is natural in a society that encourages free thought and notes that science is not neutral but socially, economically and politically constructed and that there needs to be critical awareness of the scientific process and external influences.

Earth Charter

The Earth Charter was initiated at the United Nations and was formally launched in 2000 by the Earth Charter Commission. The Charter is a declaration of the ethical principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society in the 21st century and has as a major theme ecological integrity. It recognises the environmental destruction resulting from economic development and notes the interdependency of unequal enrichment, poverty, respect for human rights, democracy and peace. It “seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family, the greater community of life, and future generations. It is a vision of hope and a call to action”.

The United Nations Earth Charter, which has four basic principles:

  • Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.
  • Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.
  • Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.
  • Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations.

Humanist Society Scotland has adopted and supports the Earth Charter.

Climate Change

The Humanist Society Scotland accepts that climate change is a reality and that governments should act to prevent/mitigate the resultant harm. Such action includes a reduction in the use of fossil fuels as a source of energy.


Like most developed countries the population has a rising demand for energy. Current energy supply is a mixture of fossil fuel, renewables and nuclear.  The Society supports the development of renewable energy and would like to see a champion at government level.

Environmental Justice

A humanist world view would support the concept of environmental justice that requires an understanding of the economic and social forces that affect inequality, income and a poor environment. A healthy environment is now being seen as a human right and worldwide governments have begun to recognise the implications of climate change and a poor environment on individuals and national security.

A report published in 2005 found that people living in deprived areas in Scotland suffered disproportionately from industrial pollution, poor water and air quality. Friends of the Earth, which has lead the campaign for environmental justice, reported in January 2014 on the most polluted streets in Scotland.

In recent years academics have been considering alternative ways of measuring economic success that goes beyond growth to include human health and well-being, the most well known of these being Wilkinson and Pickett’s Spirit Level. HSS supports this kind of evaluation and welcomes a recent report by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations entitled An Economy for All that states that the economy is part of our environment and should be used to enhance rather than destroy our environment and supports ethical business practices.

An open, accessible and accountable planning system that allows individuals and communities to participate in the planning process and appeal against poor decisions is vital to achieving a high quality environment that all can benefit from. HSS is concerned with the barriers to appealing decisions in terms of costs and national developments that cannot be questioned and would like to see more public information and education around the planning process.

Land is seen as problematic given the high proportion of land in private hands in Scotland and the findings of the Scottish Land Reform Review Group that this concentration of power is unsustainable.

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is a coalition of over 60 civic organisation who work together to ensure Scotland plays its fair part in tackling climate change and that the commitments set out in the Scottish Climate Change Act are achieved.

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What is Humanism?

Humanists are people who share common values, such as science and rational enquiry, and who seek to live ethical lives based on reason and compassion.

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