Science ... Part of the Problem?
Many of the problems facing society today are as a result of the irresponsible use of science, design and technology ...
- arsenals of mass destruction are still deployed, often at a poor standard of care, and new weapons tend to keep one step ahead of arms control
- excessive emissions of greenhouse gases are adversely affecting the climate, threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people
- the nature of war, and of other kinds of armed conflict, is continually changing, thereby keeping ahead of efforts to reduce its barbarity
- modern agricultural methods are leading to widespread loss of topsoil, water resources and biodiversity
- serious nuclear accidents occur and nuclear weapons continue to spread
- many natural resources are becoming severely depleted due to over-exploitation.
Other new science is connected with the emergence of new and as yet unclear threats ...
- will gene patents give a few patent-holders control over large sectors of agriculture and medicine?
- how much risk is being taken with the accidental and controlled releases of genetically modified organisms into the environment?
- will attempts to 'engineer the climate' to slow global climate change have more dangerous side-effects?
Indeed, at the current speed of the economic globalisation, is it really possible to properly evaluate the risks of these new technologies before they are commercialised?
All of these problems are multidimensional. Economics, politics, science, design and technology are intertwined and cannot be separated.
Some people have become disillusioned with science, design and technology and see them solely as part of the problem.
... and Part of the Solution
Unlike the 'technological optimists' SGR recognises that science, design and technology are indeed part of the problem; but, unlike those who are indifferent or even hostile to science, SGR also recognises the enormous contributions that science, design and technology make to our civilisation and wellbeing. The new problems, as well as those that have always been with us, such as starvation, drought and illness, require a combination of new scientific, economic and political solutions.
If social justice, care for the other species of this planet, and a concern for future generations have their rightful place as fundamental values, then science, design and technology can be much more part of the solution than part of the problem. Here are just a few programmes that deserve much more science, design and technology funding ...
- the clean, sustainable production of energy, and its efficient use
- the development and application of biological and medical knowledge to the benefit of all
- the study of social and economic affairs with the aim of improving the lot of all
- the development of clean, efficient transport systems, in a social setting which provides needed transport for all but inhibits unnecessary travel and freight-miles
- the use of information technology to increase energy efficiency, reduce the need for transportation, eliminate unnecessary labour, and promote access for all to humanity's pool of knowledge
- the design and construction of energy efficient and zero energy building.
SGR is working hard to bring about a change
- Our research is uncovering the influence that powerful vested interests have on science, design and technology. Our ground-breaking series of reports – Soldiers in the Laboratory, Behind Closed Doors and Science and the Corporate Agenda – demonstrate the large-scale involvement of the military and large corporations in the UK and elsewhere.
- Our briefings on Ethical Careers in Science, Design and Technology provide critical information and help to thousands of students looking for career options that contribute to peace, social justice and environmental sustainability.
- Our advocacy work includes promoting renewable energy and energy conservation, challenging the deployment of nuclear weapons and the military approach to security, and highlighting the shortcomings of nuclear power and genetically modified crops.
SGR and You
There is a great need for socially minded science, design and technology professionals, and all those who have a citizen's concern for science, design and technology policy, to help to steer these fields into constructive and just directions.
An individual with such concerns can feel isolated. SGR is a forum where like-minded people work together by discussing, developing, criticising and publishing ideas.
You can make your concern more effective by supporting and joining SGR. You become part of the UK community of science, design and technology professionals and citizens working for the constructive use of these professions and their products. And through SGR's international links, you become part of a world community.
We also produce a monthly email newsletter which anyone can sign up to here.