An Environmental Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

AuthorFranklin L. Kury
Chapter 12: An Environmental
Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution
An environmental amendment to the Constitution of the United States
is long overdue. e environmental silence of the original 1787 docu-
ment allowed brazen exploitation of the nation’s natural resources well
into the twentieth century. Nearly one hundred other countries have placed
environmental rights provisions in their constitutions. e evidence of global
warming and the resultant climate change have overwhelmed a ny doubt as
to their necessity. We are confronted by the bleak prospect of asphyxiation
of our planet.
As Patrick Henry might say if he were in the present Congress, “the ga les
from the world bring us the sounds of impending catastrophe. What more
do we wish? Why do we sit here idle?”1
What does it take to amend the U.S. Constitution? Star t with Article V
of the Constitution itself.
Article V. Amendment Process
e Congress, whenever t wo-thirds of both Houses sh all deem it necessa ry,
shall propose amendments to t his Constitution . . . which sh all be valid a nd
to all intents and purpos es, as part of th is Constitution, when ratied by t he
legislatures of th ree-fourths of the several states.2
Since the adoption of the United States Constitution in 1788, there have
been 27 amendments ratied. e rst ten, the Bill of R ights, were ratied
together. e last amendment, ratied in 1992, regulates when Congressio-
nal salaries can take eect.3
1. In 1775 Patrick Henry spoke in the Virginia House of Delegates and nished his great speech with,
“e gales from the north bring forth to our ears the sound of clashing arms . . . why sit we here idle?
What is it the gentlemen wishes? . . . give me liberty or give me death!”
2. e president has no formal role in proposing or approving a constitutional amendment.
3. e Twenty-Seventh Amendment provides: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the
Senators and Representatives, shall take eect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.”
is amendment was written by James Madison and passed by Congress in 1789, along with the
Bill of Rights. It was sent to the states for ratication but failed to be ratied by three-quarters of the
states. e amendment languished for 193 years. (Continued on next page.)

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