following questions help to analyze technological innovations,
scientific discoveries, and environmental crises from a
human rights perspective. The technologies might be historical
(e.g., development of the cast-metal plow, the compass,
the printing press, the cotton gin, dynamite) or current
(e.g., space exploration, genetic engineering, electronic
About a technological advance, historical or contemporary:
has this technology had a positive or negative effect
on human rights? How?
what ways does this technology strengthen human rights?
groups are strengthened by this technology? Do they share
any common features?
what ways does this technology weaken human rights? For
groups are weakened by this technology? Do they share
any common features?
the effect of this technology differ for different groups
of people, based on their class, gender, race, disability,
age, or geographic location?
this technology weakens human rights, how could its application
be changed in order to promote human rights?
this technology create any human rights conflicts (e.g.,
one persons right to privacy vs. anothers
right to information)?
About scientific knowledge and discoveries generally:
article(s) in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(UDHR) guarantees members of society the right to benefit
from scientific knowledge and discoveries?
has the responsibility to see that this right is enjoyed
has the responsibility to see that this knowledge or discovery
does not violate anyones rights?
practice, do all people benefit from scientific progress?
Cite examples to support your opinion.
Article 19 of the UDHR states "Everyone has the right
to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes
freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek,
receive, and impart information and ideas through any media
and regardless of frontiers."
what ways are these rights important to scientific research?
are some reasons that governments might suppress free
expression of scientists? In what ways would this suppression
affect basic research and its applications?
are some reasons that governments might prevent their
citizens from having access to scientific information?
there any situations in which a government is justified
in suppressing dissemination of scientific information
or preventing scientists from speaking freely?
Article 27 of the UDHR states that "Everyone has the
right to the protection of the moral and material interests
resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production
of which he is the author."
do you think "moral interests" means? In what
ways can this right be denied scientists?
scientists have rights with respect to controlling the
way their research and inventions are applied?
are scientists responsibilities in this area?
What roles do science and technology play in guaranteeing
the right to a fair and public hearing, set forth in Article
10 of the UDHR?
The right to a healthy environment is not explicitly mentioned
in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, although an
international covenant on the environment is in the process
of being drafted.
you think of a historical reason why the environment is
not mentioned in the UDHR?
of the rights in the UDHR depend on a healthy and safe
are the responsibilities of individuals, government, business,
and industry in ensuring a clean and safe environment?
poor and minority groups are affected the most by environmentally
destructive practices. Why is this the case?
do civil and political rights such as the right to vote,
access to information, and freedom of expression contribute
to environmental rights?
do social, economic, and cultural rights such as the right
to housing, adequate compensation, and ones cultural
identity contribute to environmental rights?
B: Suggestions for Activities
Research the stories of scientists such as Galileo or Andrei
Sakharov who have been silenced or persecuted for their
work or opinions.
Research the stories of environmental activists such as
Chico Mendes in Brazil, Ken Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria, Rachel
Carson and Cesar Chavez in the United States.
Investigate environmental disasters such as the Chernobyl
accident in the Soviet Union; the Union Carbide explosion
in Bhopal, India; the contamination at Love Canal and the
Hanford Nuclear Weapons Facility in the United States.
the rights being violated and the groups of people most
affected by the disaster.
did individuals, government, business, and industry contribute
to the disaster?
responsibilities were not met by these groups, and what
are their responsibilities in the aftermath of the disaster?
can also adapt these questions to apply to development projects
and environmental issues in your local community.
Find newspaper articles that describe new scientific discoveries,
technological advancements, or development projects. Answer
the following questions about the articles:
what ways could this discovery or advancement promote
human rights? Which specific rights in the UDHR?
what ways might this discovery or advancement be used
to deny human rights? Which specific rights?
is responsible for overseeing the application/distribution/use
of this advancement?
any rights in conflict as a result of this discovery or
are the environmental implications, if any, of this advancement?
this development likely to benefit all people in society,
or will certain groups of people benefit more than others?
Research the role of forensic scientists in documenting
human rights abuses such as disappearances and torture.
Investigate organizations that work to promote human rights
as well as science, technology, and the environment (e.g.,
Physicians for Human Rights, the Science and Human Rights
Program of the American Association for the Advancement
of Science, the Sierra Clubs campaign for human rights
and the environment).
Ethan Bleifuss, Earth Science Teacher, Apple Valley High
School, Apple Valley, Minnesota; Karen Kraco, Human Rights
Educators Network, Amnesty International USA.
We cannot think our way
to humanity. Every one of us, and everyone with whom we
live and work, must become the model for the world we
hope to create.
Celebrations of Awareness, 1970