Community Knowledge and Environmental Health Justice
282 pp., 6 x 9 in, 13 illus.
- Published: August 19, 2005
- Published: August 19, 2005
When environmental health problems arise in a community, policymakers must be able to reconcile the first-hand experience of local residents with recommendations by scientists. In this highly original look at environmental health policymaking, Jason Corburn shows the ways that local knowledge can be combined with professional techniques to achieve better solutions for environmental health problems. He traces the efforts of a low-income community in Brooklyn to deal with environmental health problems in its midst and offers a framework for understanding "street science"—decision making that draws on community knowledge and contributes to environmental justice.
Like many other low-income urban communities, the Greenpoint/Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn suffers more than its share of environmental problems, with a concentration of polluting facilities and elevated levels of localized air pollutants. Corburn looks at four instances of street science in Greenpoint/Williamsburg, where community members and professionals combined forces to address the risks from subsistence fishing from the polluted East River, the asthma epidemic in the Latino community, childhood lead poisoning, and local sources of air pollution. These episodes highlight both the successes and the limits of street science and demonstrate ways residents can establish their own credibility when working with scientists. Street science, Corburn argues, does not devalue science; it revalues other kinds of information and democratizes the inquiry and decision making processes.
I have rarely read a professional book that has had more of an impact on me, and it's been years since I found one as engrossing as Corburn's Street Science. This is an amazing volume, and one that should quickly become a classic.
Meredith Minkler, Professor of Health and Social Behavior, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley
Like a well-informed and motivated patient, a community that actively investigates local health conditions can contribute greatly to better outcomes. But this is a messy and imprecise process, one that is as much about democracy as it is about wellness. Corburn's rich and insightful book recognizes the value of local knowledge and sharpens our understanding of how community residents and health professional can collaborate effectively to seek a second opinion.
Don Chen, Executive Director, Smart Grown America
Street Science shows vividly how local knowledge, inquiry, and organizing can extend the reach and refine the focus of established professional expertise. Jason Corburn's environmental and public health cases enrich contemporary planning, action research, and the search for environmental health and justice too.
John Forester, Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University
Street Science adds an important new dimension to the literature on environmental justice by insightfully and systematically examining how community-based knowledge contributes to scientific inquiry. The book is an invaluable resource to both community activists and professional scientists.
Charles Lee, author, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States