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The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment (Anglais) Relié – 23 septembre 2010

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Présentation de l'éditeur

Focusing on the years before and directly following World War II, Dr. Benjamin Ross and Steven Amter tell the story of how the chemical industry, abetted by a compliant government, set loose a plague of pollution that lasted until the mid-1970s and lingers, to some extent, today. In that era, the advent of new synthetic chemical products such as Nylon and DDT created new hazards just as the expansion and mechanization of industry exacerbated old ones. Environmental dangers well-known today-smog, pesticides, lead, chlorinated solvents, asbestos, and even global warming-were already recognized by chemists, engineers, doctors, and business managers. A few of them spoke out about these dangers, others overlooked scientific truth in pursuit of wealth and prestige, and many struggled to find a balance between the interests of industry and the needs of the wider world. By the mid-twentieth century, the chemical industry understood that it needed to curb its pollution. But federal government regulation, the only mechanism by which effective control could have been accomplished, faced implacable hostility from the industry. Driven by the twin forces of pecuniary interest and ideological hostility to governmental control, it exercised its considerable political and economic power to block oversight. Discovery of new environmental problems was discouraged, and research that might find them was starved of funds. When dangers did emerge, well-paid advocates concocted grounds for doubt. If a crisis exploded into public view, money and influence were deployed to steer investigations toward reassuring conclusions. The Polluters provides a panoramic view of intertwined political and scientific struggles in which the apparatus of science was harnessed to the pursuit of political victory rather then objective truth. The Chemical industry lobbied congress, suppressed unwelcome research, co-opted experts, and, on occasion, simply bribed scientists. Eventually the political and bureaucratic institutions created by the industry to fight off governmental oversight took on a life of their own and constructed adequate environmental controls.

Biographie de l'auteur

Benjamin Ross is both environmental scientist and commentator on current affairs. He has served on committees of the National Academy of Sciences and the USEPA Science Advisory Board and writes frequently in Dissent magazine. Steven Amter is a hydrogeologist at the Washington consulting firm of Disposal Safety Inc. He specializes in the history of pollution.

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10 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A Nuanced Chemical History 13 décembre 2010
Par Saleem Ali - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
There are also several academic case histories of particular industrial establishments across the country. However, none of these earlier works make the connections between chemical innovation, consumer culture and the political manipulation of science, in a synthetic way that Ross and Amter provide in The Polluters. The authors start the book with three important questions: "What is the basis of scientific authority? Is science value-free or is it shaped by social and economic conditions? How does economic power influence government?"

These questions need to be addressed by scientists, engineers and policy-makers in concert and The Polluters provides a nuanced historical context for this conversation in a globalized economy. To this day most economists continue to refer to pollution as an "externality" - suggesting that the salience of the natural environment cannot be captured by market mechanisms. This book shows us how this linear logic of economic expediency in the early twentieth century defiled not only the environment but also the scientific process itself.

Where industry deserves to be praised, the authors are willing to do so without hesitation. Numerous industrial researchers who stood up for environmental consciousness are mentioned in heroic terms. In particular the authors devote a chapter to Wilhelm Hueper who started to work on environmental cancer concerns long before Rachel Carson's work popularized concerns about the impact of pesticides in this context. His career trajectory, which started at Haskell Labs and meandered through industrial appointments, ultimately landed him at the National Cancer Institute. Even at the corporate level, where there was a shift in compliance culture, positive trends are acknowledged. For example, the environmental management of the Hanford site by Dupont is highlighted as ahead of its times and the leadership of corporate executives is duly praised.

Overall, The Polluters, is a commendable effort to present the history of industrial environmental harm with candor and clarity in a readable anecdotal form. The lessons of "regulatory capture" by industry and other special interest groups and its implications on scientific progress are important for us to consider in these times when global environmental issues are gaining political prominence.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An Eye Opening History 16 août 2010
Par Stuart C Elliott - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Benjamin Ross and Steven Amter have written a fascinating and eye-opening history of the companies, institutions, and policies that have created our chemically altered environment over the last century.

If Earth Day or the Love Canal tragedy were the events that brought the environmental crisis into your consciousness, then you owe it to yourself to read The Polluters. Even more so, if it was Global Warming or the BP oil spill.

Killer smog in LA and mass zinc poisoning in Denora, Pennsylvania are two dramatic events, just after WWII, covered by Ross and Amter. But there is also the story of DDT and leaded gasoline. The coverups by companies and the obfuscations of industry-influenced scientific groups are constants in the story.

Government has rarely been an effective regulator. The chemical industry in pursuing its own pecuniary interests has promoted and exploited an ideology of market fundamentalism, which has helped to negate and undermine efforts at regulation.

The Polluters is free of academic jargon and is written in a lively style.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A Stirring Account of Industry Special Interests 2 septembre 2010
Par Jessica Slater - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
The Polluters in an engrossing tale of the men (n.b., all the women seem to have been on the side of good in this story) who battled the regulators and won the right to poison the environment from the early 1900s through to the 1970s. Rather than treating the chemical industry giants as monolithic entities Ross & Amter dig deeper to uncover the men behind the corporate facades who were largely responsible for the callous actions of these companies. This is a book that tells a timeless tale of special interests and the power they wield in the hallowed halls of government. The mantra of "more research was needed to understand the problem" can easily be found in current arguments about global warming and the more recently debated existence of underwater oil plumes in the gulf. The Polluters is a riveting narrative and at the end you are left wanting more, knowing the main characters in this tale are real and the story of our chemically altered environment is one that is continually unfolding.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A Complicated Topic, Breezily Told 9 octobre 2010
Par Marc Korman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
The Polluters is a great tour through the development of industry and the environmental regulation that eventually accompanied it. Although the book is meticulously researched with references to many reports, newspaper articles, and hearings, it never gets bogged down in the details. It is a quick read at under 200 pages as the authors jump around different time periods, industries, and pollutants. Highlights include something of a history of DuPont, the story of Donora, PA, and the fight over whether arsenic was safe to use on apples or other food. But the real takeaway the authors demonstrate is the repeated story of industry's response to the threat of regulation, often reflexively opposing it and calling for more research. The comparisons to the fight over greenhouse gas emissions and climate change is apparent and briefly explored by the authors.

There are successes however, including environmental legislation of the 1970s that created the EPA and established regimes for clean air and clean water, the Montreal Protocol of the 1980s which banned CFCs, and efforts in Los Angeles and St. Louis to limit smog.

The book's characters are a mixed bag of industry figures and scientists who often put their heads in the sand and those who saw what pollution was doing to our ecosystem and public health. With the exception of Rachel Carson, I do not think I had heard of any of these interesting figures before.
3 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Hard to believe that this important subject can be made so interesting 7 août 2011
Par Michael Brochstein - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
It is hard to believe that this important subject can be made so interesting and enjoyable to read. I expected a dry history and instead got a well documented story of greed at the expense of the health of you and me (the public). The story of how private companies were able to badly pollute the environment and to thwart any effort to curtail their actions for many many years. That a corporation would be profit driven is not news. What was new to me was how much government worked to support private enterprise at the expense of the public's health. Who would've thought that the "Public Health Service" worked for many of its years as if it were a branch of the chemical industry's trade association. The only public aspect of the PHS was the part where the public paid PHS's salaries.

As someone who has been reading on environmental issues for 30+ years much of the material in the book was actually new to me. I hope the large environmental periodicals (Sierra etc) from time to time excerpt parts of this book as much of the pre-1970 Earth Day era history of the chemical industry and the regulatory capture of various government entities resulting in huge amounts of very toxic pollution being released into the environment is truly not known by the average environmentalist or the public today. The degree of greed and regulatory capture by the industry is truly breathtaking and must never be allowed to happen again. The health of every one of us is truly at risk.
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