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Uncertain Hazards: Environmental Activists and Scientific Proof (Paperback)
  • Uncertain Hazards: Environmental Activists and Scientific Proof (Paperback)

Uncertain Hazards: Environmental Activists and Scientific Proof (Paperback)

Paperback 192 Pages / Published: 17/07/2001
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Ordinary citizens frequently organize around environmental issues on which little scientific evidence exists to back activists' claims. Should we then dismiss such claims as spurious? Or should we side with citizens against the polluters?Uncertain Hazards takes neither path. In exploring the all-too-common problem of scientific uncertainty about links between pollution and public health, Sylvia Noble Tesh shows that much of the problem can be traced to the newness of the environmental movement. The inability of scientists to find data corroborating citizens' claims stems partly from the "pre-environmentalist" assumptions still influencing the environmental health sciences, Tesh says. On the other hand, the conviction of activists that industrial pollutants threaten their health results from the environmental movement's success in promoting new ideas about nature. Tesh points to ways that environmentalist ideas have begun to affect science, thus making more likely the discovery of links between exposure to industrial pollutants and a community's health problems. Those ways include the expansion of diseases construed as environmental in cause, the study of society's most vulnerable citizens in determining safe levels of pollution, and a new focus on the effects of exposure to chemical mixtures.Using community activists' own words and experiences, Tesh argues against the familiar charge that activists are naive about science. It is inaccurate, she says, to characterize debates over the hazardous nature of pollution as debates between laypeople and experts Instead, they are debates between two groups of experts. It is also inaccurate, however, to see the conflict over environmental pollution only in scientific terms. The conflict has culturally important moral dimensions, and community activists draw heavily, although often unconsciously, on the lessons taught by environmentalism.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801485404
Number of pages: 192
Weight: 283 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 11 mm


"Concerned community members and activists who are grappling with the difficulties in understanding the riskes of environmental toxins will find Sylvia Tesh's book, Uncertain Hazards, though provoking and insightful... Tesh does an excellent job of presenting important concepts relating to environmental riskks and calling for necessary change in scientific methods of inquiry. Her emphasis on the need for community based activists to facilitate that change is welcomed."

-- John Fogarty * Voices from the Earth *

"Drawing on interviews with activists and social movement theory in her analysis of the social construction of enviornmentalism, Tesh balances the views that such political-ethical activists are naive about science and that science fails to support their concerns about such hazards as pollution."

* Reference and Research Book News *

"Even though it is too brief, Uncertain Hazards presents a provocative mapping of environmental politics that will be useful to a broad range of readers."

-- William Chaloupka, University of Montana, Missoula * Canadian Journal of Political Science *

"Extremely refreshing to read. The notion that science is itself biased by dominant notions in society is an important one to point out. This book does this and takes it one step further to analyze not just how science has tended to be biased against the ideas about nature that environmentalists have put forward, but also how science is beginning to change as environmentalists' ideas become more infused in our society. A solid and impressive contribution."

-- Jennifer Clapp, Trent University

"Tesh offers a remarkable book for exploring the problems environmental activists encounter with the scientific establishment and scientific proofs.... The book will be used by environmental scientists and activists as well as social and behavioral scientists. Graduate students; faculty and researchers."

* Choice *

"This easy to read, useful book combines several literatures: environmental history, science and society, and social movements.... Overall this little book is crammed full of old knowledge in new packages as well as a number of original insights. The book invites the reader to rewarding critical engagement."

-- Helen Ingram, University of California, Irvine * Mobilization *

"This is a fabulous book. Sylvia Noble Tesh offers a fresh, original, and lucidly written analysis of the way environmental activism has taken on the public health and scientific communities, and the promise that the movement holds for transforming these institutions for the better."

-- David Schlosberg, Northern Arizona University, author of Environmental Justice and the New Pluralism

"Uncertain Hazards addresses the clash between science and democracy when scientists fail to corroborate the claims of grassroots activists. Drawing from interviews, the author takes issue with assumptions underlying the literature on social movements and risk assessment. Rather she argues that the environmental movement has shaped the beliefs and values of our culture including the views of scientists. She thus rejects assumptions about the expert/lay dichotomy. This is a thoughtful and provocative book-essential reading for those concerned about environmental issues as well as social movement theory."

-- Dorothy Nelkin, University Professor of Social Sciences at New York University

"Uncertain Hazards is a fresh, historical view of the potentials of environmental action, overturning the stereotypes, and making the latest social science theories accessible. The citizen is both an expert and a diffuser of new cultural 'frames' in this optimistic, eminently readable assessment."

-- Charles Perrow, Yale University

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