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Paperback | $30.00 Short | £20.95 | ISBN: 9780262581820 | 366 pp. | 6 x 8.9 in | May 2000

Reclaiming the Environmental Debate

The Politics of Health in a Toxic Culture


An expanding array of hazardous substances poses an increasing threat to public health. But what makes our society a toxic culture are the social arrangements that encourage and excuse the deterioration of human health and the environment. Elements of toxic culture include the unquestioned production of hazardous wastes, economic blight, substandard housing, chronic stress, exploitative working conditions, and dangerous technologies. Toxic culture is also a metaphor for the ways our language, concepts, and values frame debates, ignoring the political conflicts and power relations that influence public health.

Reflecting a diversity of voices and critical perspectives, the essays in this book range from critiques of traditional thinking and practices to strategies for shifting public consciousness to create healthy communities. Rather than emphasize policy reform, medical advances, and individual behavior, the essays stress the causes of ill health associated with the production, use, and disposal of resources and, more important, inequality. The contributors include academics, political activists, and artists. Connecting the essays are a recognition of the political and cultural dynamics that influence public health and a commitment to organize against the powerful interests that perpetuate our toxic culture.

Robin Andersen, Mary Arquette, Marcy Darnovsky, Giovanna Di Chiro, John Bellamy Foster, Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Robert E. Fullilove, III, Al Gedicks, Richard Hofrichter, Joshua Karliner, Charles Levenstein, Timothy W. Luke, Rafael Mares, Branda Miller, Mary H. O'Brien, John O'Neal, Sheldon Rampton, William Shutkin, John Stauber, Sandra Steingraber, Alice Tarbell, John Wooding.


"Many people feel in the bones that America has become a toxic culture, self-destructive and dispirited. But few have any idea what to do about it. This wonderful volume—a little gem, really—is filled with startling perspectives, innovative thinking, and good ideas for fixing what's gone wrong."
Peter Montague, Editor, Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly

"In this outstanding collection, Richard Hofrichter has pulled together leading figures to analyze the major challenges confronting the environmental movement in the new millennium. Addressing a wide variety of issues from globalization to the politics of risk assessment, the contributions propose powerful solutions and strategies for achieving a more just and sustainable future. A must read for activist, scholars, policymakers, students, and citizens alike!"
Daniel Faber, Northeastern University, author of Environment Under Fire and editor of The Struggle for Ecological Democracy

"Environmental books can be depressing if they overwhelm us with a catalog of irreversible loss, or show how powerless we are to stop the mighty, or offer as consolation an exercise in academic abstraction while the ice cap melts. Hofrichter has put together an anthology that is hopeful: Beyond the particular environmental problems it reveals the systemic malfunction in our relations with each other and with the rest of nature. It challenges the destroyers in all areas from urban development to agricultural technology. It unmasks the uses of risk assessment appeals not to finger point and points the finger where it is most appropriate. And it shows communities in resistance from inner cities to Native American reservations. It show us that theory matters, and how it can matter even more."
Richard Levins, John Rock Professor of Population Science, Harvard School of Public Health