The RIAS is pleased to announce the winner of the third annual RIAS/UCR “Sustainable Freedoms Essay Prize” for the best essay on an issue that connects environmental issues to human rights, which this year has been awarded to Alessia Aresi for her excellent and thought-provoking essay, “Fracking: The Choice between Black Gold and Fundamental Rights.”

For the “Sustainable Freedoms” prize we invited students from University College Roosevelt (in Middelburg) to explore the interconnections between environmental sustainability and human rights in any facet, from the free speech and legal protections of scientists and environmental activists; to the participation of disenfranchised communities in political decision-making regarding (ab)use of land and water; to the healthcare rights of people impacted by environmental waste. The topic was open.

The jury received several high-quality submissions this year and selecting a winner was no easy task. In the end, the jury carefully analyzed and discussed four finalists, all of whom deserve an honorable mention and our highest compliments.

Clement Hochapfel submitted a fantastic essay titled “Substitution Reservoirs in France, a War on Water? The Case of Saint-Soline Reservoir,” which unpacked a horrific incident this past year in which community protests regarding the installation of a water reservoir were cracked down upon violently by police.

Myrto Berta Lucia Hirche was nominated for an excellent and thoroughly researched study titled “(Un)heard Voices: Assessing Opportunities and Constraints for Indigenous Peoples’ Participation at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties,” which analyzed how indigenous voices were included but mainly excluded from discourse at the COP26.

Lisa-Marie Klein was selected as a finalist for her extremely well-written and illuminating study “Framing Resistance in Lützerath: A Comparative Frame Analysis of the Climate Movements Lützerath Lebt and Fridays for Future,” which employed framing theory to analyze how these two activist groups framed resistance against the expansion of coal mining in Germany, and how these framing strategies changed throughout the course of their campaigns.

In the end, the jury chose Alessia Aresi’s study “Fracking” as the winner of the “Sustainable Freedoms” prize. In this excellent essay, Alessia examines the practice of fracking in light of the connection between its problematic environmental consequences and its impact on human rights and social well-being. Drawing from two illuminating case studies in the United States – Pennsylvania and Texas – Alessia explains how the interaction of environmental, social, political, and economic factors created by fracking results in serious human rights issues. Her essay devotes particular attention to issues respect to rights involving participatory decision-making (especially with regards to common resources), health, and equality (as fracking enhances inequality along racial/ethnic and socio-economic lines). The jury appreciated the comparative approach, the clear references to human rights as delineated in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and FDR’s “Four Freedoms” speech, and the lucid and clearly structured way in which Alessia presented her arguments. Alessia’s essay is available here – the jury encourages everyone to read it!

The prize consists of a certificate and €500, which will be awarded to Alessia at a special ceremony in the fall (date to be announced). The RIAS extends its warmest congratulations to Alessia and to all of the finalists! We appreciate the fantastic work being done on this important issue and we thank you for teaching us through your research.