Engaging Scientists to Protect the Environment and Defend Human Rights

L to R: ELAW Staff Scientists Drs. Meche Lu and Heidi Weiskel, Honduran community advocate Gerene Grant, Honduran attorney Laura Palmese Hernandez, and Nittaya Saenbut from Thailand.

ELAW Staff Scientists and partners from Liberia and Honduras inspired participants at last week’s American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) “Science, Technology and Human Rights Conference,” in Washington, D.C.
Scientists from many disciplines were pleased to join human rights leaders and impacted community members from around the world to share lessons learned and develop collaborative approaches to human rights challenges.
2019 Goldman Prize winner and ELAW partner Alfred Brownell gave the keynote address, describing his organization’s work to restore the land rights of villagers who suffer when commercial oil palm development destroys forests and small farms.
Scientists can be a powerful voice for environmental justice!
“Participating at the AAAS conference was an enriching experience” says Dr. Meche Lu, ELAW Staff Scientist. “It was a good opportunity for scientists from different disciplines and fields of expertise to share knowledge and experiences with community leaders affected by environmental and human rights abuses.”
Meche presented her work with ELAW protecting indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon from a polluting oil project.
ELAW Staff Scientist Dr. Heidi Weiskel joined Alfred, Honduran attorney Laura Palmese Hernandez, and Honduran community advocate Gerene Grant on a panel that explored how scientific tools can counter illegal land acquisition from indigenous communities. In Roatan, Laura is working with Gerene and ELAW to challenge a short-sighted port expansion project that would directly impact Gerene’s community.
“It was a valuable opportunity for our partners to share their stories and their need for scientific expertise,” says Heidi. “Alfred plans to use the AAAS network to find an anthropologist, which in turn might help them counter the illegal land-grabbing that is happening in Liberia because of the palm oil industry.”
ELAW’s partnership with True Costs Initiative (TCI) made it possible for ELAW and its partners to participate in the conference. Thank you TCI!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide