Category Archives: history

Benzene, PCBs, and industrial chemistry: A narrative bibliography

How the Benzene Tree Polluted the World in The Atlantic by Rebecca Altman, is a narrative exploration of the rise of organic chemistry, and the industrialization of the branch of chemistry based on the benzene ring. The piece focuses on the geopolitical forces shaping the production and global distribution of PCBs, a class of industrial chemicals that, though […]
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Review of Richard S. Newman’s “Love Canal: A Toxic History from Colonial Times to the Present”

Newman’s activists press for environmental change imbedded with critiques of capitalism and industrialization, racial injustice, and its global implications. This view distorts the complexity of historical events within the environmental movement.

The forgotten story of how a toxic spill and a book launched Britain’s environmental movement

When in 1963 some farm animals in the parish of Smarden in Kent became sick and died, suspicions fell on a nearby pesticide factory run by a division of Rentokil Laboratories. The events that followed amounted to one of the first environmental scandals in contemporary British history – one that would galvanise the environmental movement.

Pristine paradise to rubbish dump: the same Pacific island, 23 years apart

Remember, this is not waste that was dumped directly by human hands. It was washed here on ocean currents, meaning that this is not just about one beach – it shows how much the pollution problem has grown in the entire ocean system in little more than two decades.

Sonic Breakdown, Extinction and Memory

by Lina Dib Originally published in continent 6(1) CC BY 2.0 DOWNLOAD PDF (https://soundcloud.com/continent/lina-dib-sonic-breakdown-extinction-and-memory) This soundtrack features sounds of environmental as well as technological extinction. Of course, one cannot speak of extinction without first addressing a breakdown of sorts, a breakdown of what was once sustainable. Restoration ecology seeks to reverse damage brought on to ecosystems […]
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Review of ‘Love Canal: A Toxic History from Colonial Times to the Present’

Richard S. Newman’s recent book offers a new history of Love Canal, the neighborhood near Niagara Falls that became notoriously contaminated by buried chemical waste. As residents became aware of the leaching chemicals and associated health risks, they organized to investigate the problems and demand government action.

Bibliography for Critical Ecology

Since ecological metaphors, systems, and thinking are implicit to much of discard studies, we’re happy to share this crowdsourced bibliography on critical perspectives of ecology.

Modern Waste and Industrial Ruins in the Anthropocene

Regarding Giant Mine, the Canadian government’s plan for containment involves freezing the arsenic underground in perpetuity. Beyond the technical challenges, the question of how to communicate risk and containment to future generations by imagining a time in the distant future unlike anything we know now is no easy task.

Reconciliation’s Waste: heritage and waste in post-apartheid South Africa

Portable toilets and urine on colonial era statues are reconciliations ruins, the things leftover that heritage helps to frame but yet cannot fully explain. As matter that remains unresolved, I think it tells us about the unfinished work of reconciliation in South Africa.

Thompson on Sills, ‘Toxic War: The Story of Agent Orange’

The use of the defoliant Agent Orange by the United States is one of the most controversial actions of the Vietnam War. InToxic War: The Story of Agent Orange, Peter Sills provides much-needed clarity to the history of Agent Orange with his use of data made available by legal proceedings.