E nvironment and T echnology

Authored by: Francis O. Adeola , J. Steven Picou

T he H andbook of S ociology and H uman R ights

Print publication date:  February  2013
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9781594518829
eBook ISBN: 9781315634227
Adobe ISBN: 9781317258391


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The relationships between technology, environment, and human rights have not been thoroughly addressed by social-science research. Study of the nexus between human rights, environment, and technology is a recent development and does not enjoy the methodological rigor or sophistication and richness of theories and empirical data that characterize more established fields (see Coosmans, Grunfeld, and Kamminga 2010). An important question yet to be resolved is whether technology represents a cure for environmental and human rights ills or, rather, is the major culprit behind or catalyst for these problems. In other words, does technology represent a blessing or a curse for both environmental and human rights protection? A second question facing human rights scholars and activists addresses the extent to which the environment is universally recognized as a component of human rights. Issues of environmental justice are seminal, as the human rights of minority, indigenous, and low-income people are compromised by negative externalities of industrial production and other environmental risks (Bullard 2000, 2005; Bevc et al. 2007; Washington 2010; Wakefield and Baxter 2010; Lerner 2010). These communities are often regarded as “sacrifice zones” for economic and national-security imperatives. Also posing a challenge to human rights scholars is the question of whether access to technologies and protection from adverse effects of technologies is part and parcel of basic human rights demands. These questions remain unsettled and will be addressed in this chapter through an analysis of the relationships between the concepts of technology, environment, and human rights and their historical development.

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