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The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement

Kate Davies - Foreword by Elise Miller

This book, named one of Booklist's Top 10 books on sustainability in 2014, is the first to offer a comprehensive examination of the environmental health movement, which unlike many parts of the environmental movement, focuses on ways toxic chemicals and other hazardous agents in the environment effect human health and well-being. Born in 1978 when Lois Gibbs organized her neighbors to protest the health effects of a toxic waste dump in Love Canal, New York, the movement has spread across the United States and throughout the world. By placing human health at the center of its environmental argument, this movement has achieved many victories in community mobilization and legislative reform. In The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement, environmental health expert Kate Davies describes the movement’s historical, ideological, and cultural roots and analyzes its strategies and successes.

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 280Size: 6 3/8 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-2137-6 • Hardback • March 2013 • $44.00 • (£29.95)
978-1-4422-2245-8 • Paperback • April 2015 • $27.00 • (£17.95)
978-1-4422-2138-3 • eBook • March 2013 • $25.00 • (£15.95)
Kate Davies has been active on environmental health issues for thirty-five years in the United States and Canada. She has worked with numerous nongovernmental and governmental organizations including Greenpeace, the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, the Institute for Children’s Environmental Health, the International Joint Commission and the Royal Society of Canada. She is currently core faculty at Antioch University Seattle’s Center for Creative Change and Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington.

Environmental Health
The US Environmental Health Movement
This Book

Part 1: Historical and Cultural Roots
Chapter 1: The European Ancestry of Environmental Health
The Philosophy of Ancient Greece
The Engineering Achievements of Rome
The Spread of Judeo-Christian Religions
The Scientific Revolution and the Nature of Science
Social Justice and the Enlightenment
The Environmental Health Consequences of the Industrial Revolution
New Policies and Legislation
Recognizing and Preventing Environmentally-Related Diseases

Chapter 2: Early Environmental Public Health
The Environmental Health Consequences of the American Industrial Revolution
Environmental Public Health Concerns
Occupational Health: Working with the Urban Poor
The Home as an Environment for Protecting Health
The Progressive Era and Environmental Conservation
The Origins of Urban Planning
Preventing Environmentally-Transmitted Diseases

Chapter 3: Environmentalism and Economic Growth
Post World War II Economic Growth and the Creation of a Consumer Society
The Environmental Health Effects of Air Pollution
The Environmental Health Effects of Water Pollution
The Environmental Health Effects of Food Quality
The Antinuclear Movement and the Precedents It Set
New Ideas: Toxic Chemicals
New Ideas: Deep Ecology and Social Ecology
New Ideas: Population Growth and Resource Depletion
The Rise of Environmentalism
EPA and the Final Separation of Environmental and Public Health
The Relationship Between the Environmental Movement and the Labor Movement
Toxic Substances Control Act and Other Environmental Legislation of the 1970s

Chapter 4: The Birth of the US Environmental Health Movement
Love Canal and Its Aftermath
The Beginnings of the Environmental Justice Movement
The Role of Disasters in Building the Environmental Health Movement
Struggles for Regional Environmental Health in the Great Lakes
Winning the Battle Against Waste Incineration
Opposition to Pesticides: An Ongoing Struggle
Securing the Right to Know
Toxics Use Reduction and Pollution Prevention: Limited Success
The Lead Saga
Newer Challenges: Endocrine Disruptors and Epigenetics

Part II: The Contemporary Movement
Chapter 5: Organizations and Issues
The Movement’s Strongest Asset: State and Local Groups
The Roles of National Groups
The Influence of European Toxics Policy
The Louisville Charter
The Emergence of National Coalitions
Communications and Getting the Word Out
The Importance of Women’s Organizations
Alliances with Labor Organizations
New Ways of Framing Environmental Health: Judeo-Christian Religions
Beyond Toxics: Nanotechnology
Beyond Toxics: Electromagnetic Fields
Beyond Toxics: Fossil Fuels
Beyond Toxics: Urban Planning and Green Building
The Significance of Foundation Funding

Chapter 6: Making Environmental Issues Personal
Gaining Support from People Affected by Environmentally-Related Disease
Working with Caregivers - Nurses
Working with Caregivers – Physicians
Engaging the Health Care Sector
Protecting Children’s Environmental Health
Food, Glorious Food
Opposing Toxics in Consumer Products
And in Personal Care Products
Pollution in People

Chapter 7: Precaution and the Limitations of Science
The Impossibility of Proving Environmental Causation
The Failure to Consider Ethics
The Distortion and Cover-up of Scientific Information
Problems with Risk Assessment
Overview of Precaution
The Ingredients of Precaution
Progress on Precaution

Chapter 8: Environmental Justice and the Right to a Healthy Environment
Perspectives on Environmental Justice
Constitutional and Legal Rights to a Healthy Environment
Scientific Information on Environmental Health Injustice in the US
Environmental Justice Issues
Community-Based Research
Environmental Justice Strategies
The US Environmental Justice and Environmental Health Movements

Chapter 9: Changing Economics, the Markets and Business
The Cost of Environmental Illness
Market Campaigns: Overview
Market Campaigns: PVC Products and Packaging
Market Campaigns: Electronics
Market Campaigns: The Health Sector
Green Chemistry and Safer Materials
Socially Responsible Investing
Partnerships with Business

Conclusion and Next Steps: Strategies for Social Change
Strategies for Social Change
Creating Inspiring Visions
Minding the Gap between our Collective Aspirations and Reality
Seeing the Forest and the Trees
Identifying Leverage Points for Environmental Health
Organizing More, Collective Action
Telling Environmental Health Stories
Final Reflections

A Chronology of Key Events in US Environmental Health

Selected Resources on Environmental Health

The world is not a safe place. Toxic waste, air pollution, and pesticide use can be hazardous to your health. According to the World Health Organization, more than 40 percent of all asthma, nearly 20 percent of all cancers, and 5-percent of all birth defects are attributable to poor environmental quality. It’s impossible to avoid exposure to at least some of the 80,000 different chemicals utilized in the United States. The environmental health movement consists of many individuals and organizations cognizant of the relationship between people and the environment and environmental factors that potentially affect health. Davies extensively covers the historical roots and rise of this movement in the United States and tracks its current status and strategies, from forging national coalitions to lobbying for legislation and promoting grassroots activism. America’s environmental health movement focuses on environmental safety through precaution and prevention, opposes the use of toxic chemicals, and advocates sustainability and environmental justice. As ecotheologian Thomas Berry once declared, 'You cannot have well humans on a sick planet.'

The Greek mathematician Archimedes, referring to levers, is reputed to have said, 'Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.' It is in that spirit that author Kate Davies calls for identifying 'leverage points' for improving environmental health: 'Leverage points are places in complex systems where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes across an entire system.' For example, Davies points to the cost of health care, noting that health care in the United States is 'one of the least effective health-care systems among industrialized countries.' She argues that combining environmental health with the economics of health care will help create change. Davies is well equipped to generate social change. She founded and directed the first local government office on the environment in Canada and is on the faculty in the Environment and Community program at Antioch University’s Center for Creative Change in Seattle. In the most revealing portion of the book, Davies closes with a discussion of what she calls 'Strategies for Social Change.' She details how, historically, the movement organized for collective action on local issues, such as the response to the Love Canal contamination in Niagara Falls, New York, during the 1970s. Later, groups began lobbying for new legislation controlling toxic chemicals. Davies acknowledges that these latter efforts created tensions among environmental advocates. She argues that local groups felt state lobbying organizations, who were pursuing legislation, ignored local problems. Furthermore, she says, these local groups consisted mostly of passionate, penniless volunteers who believed the state and national groups dominated fund raising. Davies downplays the legislative accomplishments made in the 1970s by national environmental lobbying groups, such as adoption of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. However, she clearly acknowledges the failure of the Toxic Substances Control Act passed in 1976. 'By ‘grandfathering’ nearly all the chemicals that were used in 1976 (about sixty-two thousand) and excluding them from any review or testing requirements, the Act created a monumental loophole for the chemical industry.' Davies urges the environmental health movement to follow the example of others, such as the civil rights movement, by considering 'collective, peaceful civil disobedience more often.' To defend such a proposal, Davies must conclude that other paths to social change using conventional, lawful means have been exhaustively tried and found ineffective—but she has not made this case. Needlessly engaging in militant actions could cause a negative reaction in some supporters. And, as Thomas Jefferson said: 'The good opinion of mankind, like the lever of Archimedes . . . moves the world.' The Rise of the U.S. Environmental HealthMovement contains a great deal of complex information that will interest primarily those already in the movement.
Foreword Reviews

[Davies] tells the story of anger, disillusionment, and determination of Americans to develop a political movement to fight chemical pollution. . . . A well-written, thoughtful, and timely book.
Huffington Post

Kate Davies’ excellent book focuses on the role of health in the environmental health movement and encourages us to consider its origins and accomplishments.... The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement looks both back and forward to challenge us to consider our current direction. In the future this book will provide readers with an important perspective on how the environmental health movement shaped our society.

The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement examines the evolution of the diverse social movement that aims to prevent such hazards from arising. Between the complexity of our chemical environment, policy responses to it, and the movement itself, the task that Davies has taken on strains the limits of a single volume. Her broad narrative succeeds. . . . Davies’s book offers a valuable introduction to key topics in environmental health politics. Advanced undergraduates, beginning graduate students, and budding activists interested in environmental health may find the later chapters especially helpful for gaining conversance in the movement’s positions, rhetoric, and controversies. Faculty teaching courses on environmental health or health geography may find the book a helpful guide to key policies, debates, and events, especially if they are struggling to present complex scientific and political concepts for undergraduates. Davies’s great skill is in distilling these concepts.
Journal of Historical Geography

Kate Davies of Antioch University in Seattle has written a pioneering work that fills a gap in the literature and advances the cause of environmental health: that is, increasing human health and well-being through changing the environment. . . .The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement is a new departure and a major achievement. It will appeal to a wide audience of potential activists because of its optimistic tone and its appeal to spiritual as well as material values. The contributions it makes are diverse and discerning while the controversies it generates are pertinent and constructive.
New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy

The book is well-written and easy to read. . .[I]t is interesting. . . .[T]his work will appeal . . . to those interested primarily in the process of social change itself. . . .[A] copy would make a welcome addition to a complete medical, public health or sociology library. . . .Its greatest value to the occupational and environmental medicine provider lies in its ability to teach one about the importance of making environmental health issues personal and economically relevant, to achieve sufficient public momentum. In this way, individuals can succeed in making legislative and regulatory changes that improve the health and safety of our communities at the local, national, and global levels.
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement is a well-done history of America’s environmental health movement and offers readers valuable information on how grassroots organizing prevents harm from toxic exposures and leads to safe and healthy communities.
Lois Marie Gibbs, Executive Director, Center for Health, Environment & Justice

The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement is an ambitious book in the best sense of the word. Davies seeks to synthesize a tremendous amount of information, and to begin to write history as it is happening. She has made an invaluable contribution to all those who care—or should care—about what environmental contaminants are doing to us and to all life on earth.
Michael Lerner, president of Commonweal and co-founder of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, Health Care Without Harm and the Health and Environmental Funders Network

The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement is a finely-balanced and fair-minded account of how this movement came to be and what it will take to execute the sea change we need to fully protect public health.
Elise Miller, Director and co-founder of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, founded and directed the Institute for Children’s Environmental Health, Founding Executive Director of the Jenifer Altman Foundation

Kate Davies' authoritative history describes the origins and dimensions of one wing of the environmental movement. It is both generous and accurate in its portrayal of the ideas, the people, and organizations that forged the link between the environment and human health. This is the definitive guide to the story of one of the most important movements of our century.
Carolyn Raffensperger, Science and Environmental Health Network

A compelling history and an accessible guide that unravels the complexity of environmental health issues and the evolving environmental health movement and offers references and examples for how our collective and individual actions can make a healthy difference in the places where we live, work, play, and go to school.
Peggy M. Shepard, Executive Director and co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice

For more information on the book, and the environmental health movement, check out Kate Davies' website: www.environmentalhealthmovement.org

• Winner, Booklist Spotlight on Sustainability: Top 10 Books on Sustainability (2014)