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Social Justice: Suggested Social and Environmental Justice Topics

About this list

This list of suggested topics was created to help students and faculty approach the subjects of social and environmental justice from within their major or discipline. The list is not intended to be exhaustive: it is a starting point.

Suggested Topics

Social and Environmental Justice    

 “Social justice fosters human progress in the social, cultural and spiritual dimensions, and so promotes human rights in the struggle for dignity and fundamental freedoms.” 

“Environmental justice takes into account the most vulnerable populations in the mitigation of climate change.”

Important Human Rights Resolutions

1948    UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights  

2007    Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights

2008    UN Resolution on Human Rights and Climate Change 

2008    Organization of American States Resolution on Human Rights and Climate Change in the Americas

 

ACTIVISM

Non-governmental Organizations [NGOs]: are they positive agents for change?

Student activism

ANTHROPOLOGY

The Saami people [previously known as the Lapps] of Northern Scandinavia vs. Finnish logging companies

Forest people of Amazon 

Traditional lifestyle of an aboriginal community  

Cultural differences and values  

Rights of indigenous populations

BUSINESS

Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights BLIHR [United Nations]

Child labor

Domestic workers—illegal immigrants; fair wages and treatment

Effects of Globalization

Fair Trade

Corporate social responsibility in trans-national corporations

Human rights risk management in foreign investment—how a particular project might impact the traditional lifestyle of an aboriginal community

Environmental standards differ globally

Operating in zones of conflict

Socially responsible business practices: sustainability of resources

Sweatshops

Workers’ rights—migrant labor

CATHOLIC SOCIAL JUSTICE

Access to food, clean water and shelter: a matter of justice

Community: promotion of the common good, e.g. education

Development of poor countries in an effort to alleviate human misery

Dignity of the human person from creation: abortion; euthanasia; the death penalty

Family-friendly economic policy—where does the US stand in this regard?

Global responsibility for alleviation of economic inequality

Human dignity: how poverty affects human rights

Marginalization of the poor

Pacifism, disarmament

Rights and their corresponding social responsibilities

CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

Exploitation of children

Child soldiers in Uganda

Child workers enslaved on chocolate farms in Ivory Coast

Child workers in India

Human trafficking – prostitution

Right to free education

Right to adequate healthcare

CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change inequitably impacts developing countries

Help is needed to adapt to climate change—technology, policy, etc.

Effect of sea level rise to small island nations, e.g. Maldives; Vanuatu

Enable the most vulnerable states and populations to become more resilient to climate change by mitigation and adaptation   

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Challenges of terrorism: extraordinary rendition, torture and

unlawful detention

Crime victims

Death penalty / capital punishment

Human trafficking

Police powers and human rights

Prisoners’ rights

Racial profiling            

DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

Access to information—censorship; lack of technology

Access to technology takes international support

Guidance needed in adaptation of new energy sources/fuels—environmental impact assessments needed

Non-governmental Organizations [NGOs]: are they positive agents for change?

Role of private companies in technology transfer—will technology transfer advance or impede human rights protection?

ECONOMICS

Economics and human rights: in conflict or complementary?

Is economics at the service of human dignity?

Food and nutrition

Global commerce and its effect on local populations

Pharmaceuticals—equal access in all communities?

Poverty and inequality                         

EDUCATION  

Access to education: minority groups, the poor, refugees, migrant workers, and others      

Censorship of textbooks; rewriting history

Children with disabilities

Corporal punishment

The "Digital Divide" : access to technology

Discrimination against girls or non-citizens

“Free or fee?” The right to free and compulsory primary education

            Freedom from indoctrination

            Global differences in attitudes towards the right to education

Impact of child labor or early marriage on education of children

Language of instruction

Impact of illiteracy on society

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

Globalization vs. local ethnic identity

Indigenous populations

   Forest-dependent economies in the Amazon

   Bushmen of Southern Africa

   Arctic peoples and climate change:

   The Inuit of North America—legal battle: right to property being lost through global warming 

   Landfills—proximity to the homes of the poor

   Industrial air pollution – how it often affects the poorest and most vulnerable

 

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Freedom of the press

Government censorship

Hate speech

Prisoners of conscience

“Reporters Without Borders”  Reporters killed, jailed in Africa, China, Russia, Turkey, Korea, Belarus, Mexico, etc.

GENOCIDE / ETHNIC CLEANSING

Holocaust; Armenia; Cambodia; Rwanda; Kosovo; Darfur

GEOGRAPHY and SOCIAL JUSTICE

Landfills—proximity to the homes of the poor

Industrial air pollution – how it often affects the poorest and most vulnerable

GLOBAL WARMING 

Carbon emissions trading—long-term effects on poorest countries—research needed

“Harm caused at a distance” —poorer countries need legal protections

Wealthy countries have responsibility to mitigate climate change and aid in adaptation abroad

GLOBALIZATION

Globalization vs. local ethnic identity

Exploitation of local citizens

Inequality in world politics

Impact on human rights—Does it lead to an unequal distribution of wealth?          

HEALTH

Access to food, clean water and shelter: a matter of justice

Access to adequate healthcare

Medical experimentation

Rights of the disabled and the mentally ill 

HISTORY

Theories and movements in the field of Human Rights

   History and development of the idea in Western political thought

   Non-Western attitudes towards human rights

   Nuremburg and Tokyo war crimes trials

   Post-Soviet human rights

   Colonialism and human rights

   Apartheid

      Empire and race

      Slavery

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Geneva Convention

Truth commissions

Universal jurisdiction

INTERNATIONAL HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM

Ecotourism: leave no footprints; low impact; "green" hostelry

Globalization of industry : how it impacts local populations

LITERATURE of Human Rights

“Writing as a discourse significant to participatory democracy”

Writings of survivors, victims, witnesses – plays, novels, poetry, stories

Imagery and symbolism

MATH & SCIENCE

Average wages worldwide

Bioethics: Biology and human values

Environmental justice

Fair trade, e.g., coffee and chocolate

Health professionals and human rights

Technology: absence of, in developing world

PERSECUTION

Argentina’s “disappearances”

Cultural differences and values

Homelessness

Immigrants’ rights

Persecution on account of political opinion or social group

Race prejudice around the world         

PSYCHOLOGY

Aggression and violence

Causes and consequences of genocide          

Conduct of research with human subjects—ethics 

Conflict resolution

Consequences of detention on refugees

Duty and responsibility of the individual to the community

Ethics: interrogation of political detainees

Evil: personality and human cruelty

Impact of apathetic bystanders

Peace psychology

Psychological dimensions of climate change

http://www.psysr.org/about/committees/environment/index.php

Human behavior toward the idea of climate change

Motivation: strategies to overcome inaction

REFUGEES

Internally displaced persons

Victims of disasters: Earthquakes; Floods; Fires

Hurricane Katrina and rights of African Americans

The children of war: Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army

Persecution on account of political opinion or social group

SOCIAL WORK

Access to social services

Cultural competence

Homelessness

Inequalities in treatment

 

Rights of indigenous populations

Social policies

Violence against Native American women

SOCIOLOGY

Access to education: minority groups, the poor, refugees, migrant workers, and others

The "Digital Divide": access to technology

Domestic workers—illegal immigrants; fair wages and treatment

Development of poor countries in an effort to alleviate human misery

Exploitation of local citizens

Global differences in attitudes towards the right to education

Globalization—does it lead to an unequal distribution of wealth?

Globalization vs. local ethnic identity

Impact of child labor or early marriage on education of children

Impact of illiteracy on society

Marginalization of the poor

Non-governmental Organizations [NGOs]: are they positive agents for change?

Poverty and inequality

 

Health

            Access to adequate healthcare

            Right to adequate healthcare

            Medical experimentation

            Rights of the disabled and the mentally ill 

            Homelessness (should also be cross-listed under Social Work)

Race prejudice around the world

Minority rights (women, workers, racial/ethnic groups, the elderly, children, LGBTs, the disabled, the poor, immigrants)

 

SPORT and HUMAN RIGHTS

Athletes’ rights

Gender equity

Paralympics

Race equity

Sport and protest 

UNITED NATIONS

Declaration of Human Rights 1948 – Internationalizing of human rights

How far can it go in protecting human rights?

Humanitarian intervention – Does it work without weapons?

 WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Access to credit and marketing arrangements

Crimes against women

Discrimination in health research

Domestic violence

Equal pay for equal work

Religious differences in attitudes towards women

Shari’a: rights of women in a modern Islamic state

Women’s cooperatives

           

WORKERS’ RIGHTS

Clothing industry workers worldwide: sweatshops

Fair wages

Gender equity: equal pay for equal work

Migrant workers – exploitation 

The right to form unions

Slavery – Florida’s tomato workers