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The Age of Smoke
Environmental Policy in Germany and the United States, 1880-1970
Frank Uekotter
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009
In 1880, coal was the primary energy source for everything from home heating to industry. Regions where coal was readily available, such as the Ruhr Valley in Germany and western Pennsylvania in the United States, witnessed exponential growth-yet also suffered the greatest damage from coal pollution.

These conditions prompted civic activism in the form of “anti-smoke” campaigns to attack the unsightly physical manifestations of coal burning. This early period witnessed significant cooperation between industrialists, government, and citizens to combat the smoke problem. It was not until the 1960s, when attention shifted from dust and grime to hazardous invisible gases, that cooperation dissipated, and protests took an antagonistic turn.

The Age of Smoke presents an original, comparative history of environmental policy and protest in the United States and Germany. Dividing this history into distinct eras (1880 to World War I, interwar, post-World War II to 1970), Frank Uekoetter compares and contrasts the influence of political, class, and social structures, scientific communities, engineers, industrial lobbies, and environmental groups in each nation. He concludes with a discussion of the environmental revolution, arguing that there were indeed two environmental revolutions in both countries: one societal, where changing values gave urgency to air pollution control, the other institutional, where changes in policies tried to catch up with shifting sentiments.

Focusing on a critical period in environmental history, The Age of Smoke provides a valuable study of policy development in two modern industrial nations, and the rise of civic activism to combat air pollution. As Uekoetter's work reveals, the cooperative approaches developed in an earlier era offer valuable lessons and perhaps the best hope for future progress.

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Citizens of Worlds
Open-Air Toolkits for Environmental Struggle
Jennifer Gabrys
University of Minnesota Press, 2022

An unparalleled how-to guide to citizen-sensing practices that monitor air pollution

Modern environments are awash with pollutants churning through the air, from toxic gases and intensifying carbon to carcinogenic particles and novel viruses. The effects on our bodies and our planet are perilous. Citizens of Worlds is the first thorough study of the increasingly widespread use of digital technologies to monitor and respond to air pollution. It presents practice-based research on working with communities and making sensor toolkits to detect pollution while examining the political subjects, relations, and worlds these technologies generate. 

Drawing on data from the Citizen Sense research group, which worked with communities in the United States and the United Kingdom to develop digital-sensor toolkits, Jennifer Gabrys argues that citizen-oriented technologies promise positive change but then collide with entrenched and inequitable power structures. She asks: Who or what constitutes a “citizen” in citizen sensing? How do digital sensing technologies enable or constrain environmental citizenship? 

Spanning three project areas, this study describes collaborations to monitor air pollution from fracking infrastructure, to document emissions in urban environments, and to create air-quality gardens. As these projects show, how people respond to, care for, and struggle to transform environmental conditions informs the political subjects and collectives they become as they strive for more breathable worlds.


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Clean Air
The Policies and Politics of Pollution Control
Charles O. Jones
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1978
Clean Air begins and ends with a vivid case study of air pollution at the Clairton coke works, the largest such facility in the world. Against this background, Jones analyzes the development of pollution control policy beyond capability. He describes normal policy development as the gradual temporization of proposals, but that air pollution control deviated from the norm because of widespread public demand in the late 1960s for unrealistic controls. Jones's study further examines the development and implementation of policy at three levels-local, state and federal.

front cover of Clean Water, 2nd ed
Clean Water, 2nd ed
An Introduction to Water Quality and Water Pollution Control
Kenneth M. Vigil
Oregon State University Press, 2003
Clean Water is a book for anyone concerned about this precious resource who wants to become better informed. In straightforward language, Kenneth Vigil provides a comprehensive introduction to the many scientific, regulatory, cultural, and geographic issues associated with water quality and water pollution control.

Most other books on water quality and pollution control are highly technical and very specific, and are aimed at engineers, scientists, or attorneys. Clean Water, on the other hand, is a comprehensive discussion of the subject intended for a wider audience of science students, educators, and the general public.

Vigil avoids the use of technical jargon and uses many photos and diagrams to illustrate and explain concepts. He provides sufficient detail to educate readers about many broad topics and includes additional references at the end of each chapter for exploring specific topics in more detail.

Clean Water summarizes the basic fundamentals of water chemistry and microbiology and outlines important water quality rules and regulations, all in concise, understandable prose. It describes the basic scientific principles behind water pollution control and the broader approach of addressing water pollution problems through watershed management. There are sections on drinking water and on citizen involvement in water pollution control efforts at home and in the community.

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The Devil's Fruit
Farmworkers, Health, and Environmental Justice
Dvera I. Saxton
Rutgers University Press, 2021
The Devil's Fruit describes the facets of the strawberry industry as a harm industry, and explores author Dvera Saxton’s activist ethnographic work with farmworkers in response to health and environmental injustices. She argues that dealing with devilish—as in deadly, depressing, disabling, and toxic—problems requires intersecting ecosocial, emotional, ethnographic, and activist labors. Through her work as an activist medical anthropologist, she found the caring labors of engaged ethnography take on many forms that go in many different directions. Through chapters that examine farmworkers’ embodiment of toxic pesticides and social and workplace relationships, Saxton critically and reflexively describes and analyzes the ways that engaged and activist ethnographic methods, frameworks, and ethics aligned and conflicted, and in various ways helped support still ongoing struggles for farmworker health and environmental justice in California. These are problems shared by other agricultural communities in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Electric Mountains
Climate, Power, and Justice in an Energy Transition
Shaun A. Golding
Rutgers University Press, 2021
Climate change has shifted from future menace to current event. As eco-conscious electricity consumers, we want to do our part in weening from fossil fuels, but what are we actually a part of?

Committed environmentalists in one of North America’s most progressive regions desperately wanted energy policies that address the climate crisis. For many of them, wind turbines on Northern New England’s iconic ridgelines symbolize the energy transition that they have long hoped to see. For others, however, ridgeline wind takes on a very different meaning. When weighing its costs and benefits locally and globally, some wind opponents now see the graceful structures as symbols of corrupted energy politics.

This book derives from several years of research to make sense of how wind turbines have so starkly split a community of environmentalists, as well as several communities. In doing so, it casts a critical light on the roadmap for energy transition that Northern New England’s ridgeline wind projects demarcate. It outlines how ridgeline wind conforms to antiquated social structures propping up corporate energy interests, to the detriment of the swift de-carbonizing and equitable transformation that climate predictions warrant. It suggests, therefore, that the energy transition of which most of us are a part, is probably not the transition we would have designed ourselves, if we had been asked.

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The Enigma of Automobility
Democratic Politics and Pollution Control
Sudhir Chella Rajan
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996
Rajan investigates air pollution policy as one based on how to make cars less polluting. Putting the onus on auto manufacturers and owners has generated an elaborate scheme of emissions testing and pollution-control devices, and does not look at the technology itself as the heart of the problem. Rajan focuses his study on data collected in Los Angeles, to show how emissions testing burdens the poor, who tend to own older cars that pollute more. Rajan argues for democratic control over technology, steering it away from special interest groups and toward a long-term ethical resolution.

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Ozone Diplomacy
New Directions in Safeguarding the Planet, Enlarged Edition
Richard Elliot Benedick
Harvard University Press, 1998

Hailed in the Foreign Service Journal as “a landmark book that should command the attention of every serious student of American diplomacy, international environmental issues, or the art of negotiation,” and cited in Nature for its “worthwhile insights on the harnessing of science and diplomacy,” the first edition of Ozone Diplomacy offered an insider’s view of the politics, economics, science, and diplomacy involved in creating the precedent-setting treaty to protect the Earth: the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer.

The first edition ended with a discussion of the revisions to the protocol in 1990 and offered lessons for global diplomacy regarding the then just-maturing climate change issue. Now Richard Benedick—a principal architect and the chief U.S. negotiator of the historic treaty—expands the ozone story, bringing us to the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Montreal Protocol. He describes subsequent negotiations to deal with unexpected major scientific discoveries and important amendments adding new chemicals and accelerating the phaseout schedules. Implementing the revised treaty has forced the protocol’s signatories to confront complex economic and political problems, including North–South financial and technology transfer issues, black markets for banned CFCs, revisionism, and industry’s willingness and ability to develop new technologies and innovative substitutes. In his final chapter Benedick offers a new analysis applying the lessons of the ozone experience to ongoing climate change negotiations.

Ozone Diplomacy has frequently been cited as the definitive book on the most successful environment treaty, and is essential reading for those concerned about the future of our planet.


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Thinking Through Chemical Environments
Soraya Boudia
Rutgers University Press, 2022
Residues offers readers a new approach for conceptualizing the environmental impacts of chemicals production, consumption, disposal, and regulation. Environmental protection regimes tend to be highly segmented according to place, media, substance, and effect; academic scholarship often reflects this same segmented approach. Yet, in chemical substances we encounter phenomena that are at once voluminous and miniscule, singular and ubiquitous, regulated yet unruly. Inspired by recent studies of materiality and infrastructures, we introduce “residual materialism” as a framework for attending to the socio-material properties of chemicals and their world-making powers. Tracking residues through time, space, and understanding helps us see how the past has been built into our present chemical environments and future-oriented regulatory systems, why contaminants seem to always evade control, and why the Anthropocene is as inextricably harnessed to the synthesis of carbon into new molecules as it is driven by carbon’s combustion.

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Risk and Adaptation in a Cancer Cluster Town
Laura Hart
Rutgers University Press, 2023
In disease cluster communities across the country, environmental contamination from local industries is often suspected as a source of disease. But civic action is notoriously hampered by the slow response from government agencies to investigate the cause of disease and the complexities of risk assessment. 

In Risk and Adaptation in a Cancer Cluster Town, Laura Hart examines another understudied dimension of community inaction: the role of emotion and its relationship to community experiences of social belonging and inequality. Using a cancer cluster community in Northwest Ohio as a case study, Hart advances an approach to risk that grapples with the complexities of community belonging, disconnect, and disruption in the wake of suspected industrial pollution. Her research points to a fear driven not only by economic anxiety, but also by a fear of losing security within the community—a sort of pride that is not only about status, but connectedness. Hart reveals the importance of this social form of risk—the desire for belonging and the risk of not belonging—ultimately arguing that this is consequential to how people make judgements and respond to issues. Within this context where the imperative for self-protection is elusive, affected families experience psychosocial and practical conflicts as they adapt to cancer as a way of life. Considering a future where debates about risk and science will inevitably increase, Hart considers possibilities for the democratization of risk management and the need for transformative approaches to environmental justice.

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Risky Cities
The Physical and Fiscal Nature of Disaster Capitalism
Albert S. Fu
Rutgers University Press, 2022
Over half the world’s population lives in urban regions, and increasingly disasters are of great concern to city dwellers, policymakers, and builders. However, disaster risk is also of great interest to corporations, financiers, and investors. Risky Cities is a critical examination of global urban development, capitalism, and its relationship with environmental hazards. It is about how cities live and profit from the threat of sinkholes, garbage, and fire. Risky Cities is not simply about post-catastrophe profiteering. This book focuses on the way in which disaster capitalism has figured out ways to commodify environmental bads and manage risks. Notably, capitalist city-building results in the physical transformation of nature. This necessitates risk management strategies –such as insurance, environmental assessments, and technocratic mitigation plans. As such capitalists redistribute risk relying on short-term fixes to disaster risk rather than address long-term vulnerabilities. 

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Speaking for the River
Confronting Pollution on the Willamette, 1920s-1970s
James V. Hillegas-Elting
Oregon State University Press, 2018
Since the late 1960s, Oregon has been at the forefront of environmental protection in the United States. The state generally, and Portland in particular, continue to have strong “green” credentials well into the twenty-first century. Within this forty year period of progress, however, the health of the Willamette River has been a consistent blot on the record. Willamette River water pollution has not gone away—the problem has, in fact, gotten much more complex. James Hillegas-Elting’s book, Speaking for the River, provides a historical look at this dilemma.

Willamette River cleanup efforts between 1926 and 1975 centered on a struggle between abatement advocates and the two primary polluters in the watershed, the City of Portland and the pulp and paper industry. Beginning in 1926, clean streams advocates created ad hoc groups of public health experts, sanitary engineers, conservationists, sportsmen, and others to pressure Portland officials and industry representatives to cease polluting the river. By the late 1960s, these grassroots initiatives found political footholds at the state level. As governor between 1967 and 1975, Tom McCall took the issue of environmental protection personally, providing the charisma and leadership that was needed to finally make substantive progress toward cleaning the Willamette.

Speaking for the River is the first book to describe the historical roots of Willamette River pollution, providing important context for understanding the political, fiscal, and technological antecedents to the present-day conundrum. Hillegas-Elting’s contribution to the academic literature on environmental and urban history in Oregon will be welcomed by policy makers, environmentalists, and concerned citizens alike.

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Toxic and Intoxicating Oil
Discovery, Resistance, and Justice in Aotearoa New Zealand
Patricia Widener
Rutgers University Press, 2021
When oil and gas exploration was expanding across Aotearoa New Zealand, Patricia Widener was there interviewing affected residents and environmental and climate activists, and attending community meetings and anti-drilling rallies. Exploration was occurring on an unprecedented scale when oil disasters dwelled in recent memory, socioecological worries were high, campaigns for climate action were becoming global, and transitioning toward a low carbon society seemed possible. Yet unlike other communities who have experienced either an oil spill, or hydraulic fracturing, or offshore exploration, or climate fears, or disputes over unresolved Indigenous claims, New Zealanders were facing each one almost simultaneously. Collectively, these grievances created the foundation for an organized civil society to construct and then magnify a comprehensive critical oil narrative--in dialogue, practice, and aspiration. Community advocates and socioecological activists mobilized for their health and well-being, for their neighborhoods and beaches, for Planet Earth and Planet Ocean, and for terrestrial and aquatic species and ecosystems. They rallied against toxic, climate-altering pollution; the extraction of fossil fuels; a myriad of historic and contemporary inequities; and for local, just, and sustainable communities, ecologies, economies, and/or energy sources. In this allied ethnography, quotes are used extensively to convey the tenor of some of the country’s most passionate and committed people. By analyzing the intersections of a social movement and the political economy of oil, Widener reveals a nuanced story of oil resistance and promotion at a time when many anti-drilling activists believed themselves to be on the front lines of the industry’s inevitable decline.

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Trash Backwards
Innovating Our Way to Zero Waste
David Naylor
Island Press, 2012
Trash Backwards: Innovating Our Way to Zero Waste examines the various kinds of trash Americans are producing in staggering quantities, and profiles a range of innovative processes, people, and companies who are thinking creatively about how to not just reduce pressure on landfills, but redefine what’s possible in the realm of recycling. This E-ssential offers insights into the motivations and inspirations of people working on cutting edge processes of waste management and land reclamation in America—from household trash to biowaste processing to reclaiming brownfields. We’re at a critical juncture with our waste production— and among all of the other problems on Earth (climate change, war, stagnant economies), this is the one that ingenuity, as well as a little old-fashioned conservation, can put a big dent in, if not solve.

front cover of Unleaded
How Changing Our Gasoline Changed Everything
Carrie Nielsen
Rutgers University Press, 2021
When leaded gasoline was first developed in the 1920s, medical experts were quick to warn of the public health catastrophes it would cause. Yet government regulators did not heed their advice, and for more than half a century, nearly all cars used leaded gasoline, which contributed to a nationwide epidemic of lead poisoning. By the 1970s, 99.8% of American children had significantly elevated levels of lead in their blood.
Unleaded tells the story of how crusading scientists and activists convinced the U.S. government to ban lead additives in gasoline. It also reveals how, for nearly fifty years, scientific experts paid by the oil and mining industries abused their authority to convince the public that leaded gasoline was perfectly harmless. 
Combining environmental history, sociology, and neuroscience, Carrie Nielsen explores how lead exposure affects the developing brains of children and is linked to social problems including academic failure, teen pregnancies, and violent crime. She also shows how, even after the nationwide outrage over Flint’s polluted water, many poor and minority communities and communities of color across the United States still have dangerously high lead levels. Unleaded vividly depicts the importance of sound science and strong environmental regulations to protect our nation’s most vulnerable populations.

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Waste is a Terrible Thing to Mind
Risk, Radiation, and Distrust of Government
Weingart, John
Rutgers University Press, 2007

It is an unenviable task, but one that all state governments face: finding a final “resting place” for low-level nuclear waste from power plants, hospitals, university laboratories, and other industries. John Weingart was the official in New Jersey who for many years led this onerous charge. This book is the story of how he and a commission appointed by the governor, instead of imposing a top-down solution, designed an approach that would confront public fears by seeking a community that would volunteer to host a disposal facility. Initially, this novel approach was surprisingly successful, as leaders in a dozen municipalities stepped forward to say they might be interested. Once their interest became known, however, the process in each town derailed. Residents demanded assurances of zero-percent risk and expressed profound distrust of government assertions and promises.

Waste Is a Terrible Thing to Mind is a compelling, suspenseful, and amusing insider’s account of New Jersey policy and politics, but it is also a larger saga of the challenges facing society in the post–9/11 era when the public’s distrust of government is increasing at the same time that its sensitivity to health and safety threats is heightened.

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"Written with a wry sense of humor, it is a pleasure to read and could provide the blueprint for future efforts to find locations for controversial land uses."
- Marie Curtis, Executive Director, New Jersey Environmental Lobby

"A penetrating look at one state's struggle with radioactive waste ... offering some tantalizing reflections on the public understanding of science and how we, in a democratic society, deal with complexity and uncertainty."
- Jay Kaufman, State Senator, Massachusetts State Legislature

"A provocative story, laced with humor, demonstrates how public distrust of government can make it impotent. It should be read by anyone working on public policy issues, especially planning, growth, and the environment."
- Harriet Keyserling, Former Energy Committee Chair, South Carolina State Legislature

"Readers interested in environmental policy, land use and how governments make decisions will learn much from this fine reflective insider's account. It's also a primer on how to survive and thrive in state government."
- David N. Kinsey, Visiting Professor, Woodrow Wilson School Princeton University

"... a fascinating case study of how a government agency creatively tried to solve an intractable public issue. Although the agency failed in its quest to recruit a town to host a low-level radioactive waste site, Weingart's detailed and often humorous narrative of the agency's efforts is a clear winner."
- Jack Sabatino, Judge, New Jersey Superior Court

"... a very engaging and sometimes discouraging case study about the pitfalls and perils of trying to site a controversial facility the right way."
- Gregg Larson, Administrator, Center for Biometric Research, University of Minnesota


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