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Living Downstream: An Ecologist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment Paperback – Mar 23 2010
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Steingraber’s ability to meld literary prose with complex scientific information has made her a best-selling author. Like her hero Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book Silent Spring led to the ban on the pesticide DDT and kick-started the grass-roots environmental movement, Steingraber somehow finds language beautiful and compelling enough to seduce readers to sit through a science lesson.”
The Ithacan, 2/12/10
Jeff Cohen, director of the Park Center for Independent Media, said that Steingraber’s expertise in writing and biology as well as her personal experience created an unbelievable combination. What she’s brilliant atalmost in a league of her ownis mixing personal passionate stories with totally comprehensive and accurate science,’ he said. It’s not easy to do, it’s not easy to make complex scientific issues interesting, but no one does it better than Sandra Steingraber.’”
I thought I would talk about two of the books that most moved me to do more, to do better, to live a less toxic life. The first is Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the second is Sandra Steingraber’s incredibly powerful Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment Why these two books? Because they point out something very, very telling about the link between the lives we live and the cancers we get.”
The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Spring 2010
Steingraber presents a clear, cogent and convincing case for the environmental roots of cancer.”
Gaia Fitness blog, 3/11/10
Living Downstream is a very well-written book by Sandra Steingraber about the status of the world in which we live and it’s affects on our lives. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend picking it up. It will likely give you a whole new perspective on the health of our world and us.”
Ithaca Journal, 4/2/10
A part-memoir/part-scientific treatise about her battles with cancer, and the environmental roots of many cancers.”
Ithaca Times, 3/31/10
Part analysis and presentation of available scientific information on the links between cancer and the environment and part memoir.”
Tuscon Citizen, 4/20/10
In this second edition of a contemporary classic, Steingraber, a cancer survivor, biologist, and mother, builds a convincing case that many cancers can be prevented through environmental change This spare, beautifully written book, originally published in 1997, presents a passionate, hopeful view, asserting that it’s a good thing that the environment has such influence over cancer because, she insists, we can do something about it.”
A book with a strong personal as well as societal orientation The book’s language is more plainspoken and thus more accessible than that of many other books warning of environmental hazards.”
Energy Times, May 2010
Beautifully written, Living Downstream blends [Steingraber’s] own talea cancer diagnosis at age 20with an environmental detective story If you’ve ever wondered about the link between pollution and cancer, read Living Downstream.”
Ms., Spring 2010
In the film, as well as in her memoir of the same title, Steingraber moves to break the silence about chemical carcinogens by doing what Rachel Carson couldn’t: use her own diagnosis to prove a scientific point.”
Toronto Star, 5/19/10
Ecologist Sandra Steingraber is the Rachel Carson of the new millennium”: A personal and scientific inquiry They call her the poet laureate of the environmental health movement.”
From the Inside Flap
With this eloquent and impassioned book, biologist and poet Sandra Steingraber shoulders the legacy of Rachel Carson, producing a work about people and land, cancer and the environment, that is as accessible and invaluable as "Silent Spring--and potentially as historic.
In her early twenties, Steingraber was afflicted with cancer, a disease that has afflicted other members of her adoptive family. Writing from the twin perspectives of a survivor and a concerned scientist, she traces the high incidence of cancer and the terrifying concentrations of environmental toxins in her native rural Illinois. She goes on to show similar correlation in other communities, such as Boston and Long Island, and throughout the United States, where cancer rates have risen alarmingly since mid-century. At once a deeply moving personal document and a groundbreaking work of scientific detection, Living Downstream will be a touchstone for generations, reminding us of the intimate connection between the health of our bodies and the integrity of our air, land, and water.
"By skillfully weaving a strong personal drama with thorough scientific research, Steingraber tells a compelling story....Well worth reading."--Washington Post
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Since this is a second edition of a book published originally over a decade ago, there are of course numerous updates. All of them, however, simply emphasize that the facts and experiences the author shares are becoming increasingly critical. Steingraber, born and brought up on an Illinois farm, was diagnosed at the age of 20 with bladder cancer. She survived the initial bout, and became a PhD biologist. She has since dedicated her life to the environmental, genetic and biochemical study of cancer, and the resulting environmental activism that is focused in her books and civil actions such as the protest discussed in the Moyers interview. This particular narrative acknowledges the extreme impact that Rachel Carson's famous book "Silent Spring" had on Sandra's own developing activism and deep concern about the across-the-board impact of runaway pollution of all sorts on the health of our planet and the beings inhabiting it.
Again, though, I find myself grateful for my own organic chemistry background, because a great deal of Steingraber's discussion goes into the somewhat technical details of the main carcinogenic pollutants that result from insecticide and herbicide use, chemical, paper and plastics manufacturing, fossil fuel extraction and burning, hazardous waste storage and trash incineration, and so on. She really leaves no stone unturned in developing the case that our total scientific approach has been completely backwards, based on completely useless attempts to identify individual carcinogenic effects of a few specific toxicants when in fact there are thousands of materials which not only may be harmful in and of themselves, but whose potential hazards multiply exponentially when they are in concert with one another.
The Afterword of Steingraber's extraordinarily important book, added of course to the Second Edition, focuses on the "Precautionary Principle" articulated by "an international group of scientists, lawyers, farmers, governmental officials, physicians, urban planners, environmental thinkers, and others" who gathered in 1998 at Frank Lloyd Wright's Wingspread house in Racine, Wisconsin. She cites in its entirety the Statement issued by this group, the last two paragraphs of which deserve to be printed in bold face across every argument about the pros and cons of environmental issues:
"Therefore, it is necessary to implement the Precautionary Principle. When an activity raises threat of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context, the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.
"The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action."
Steingraber's extraordinary writing, as well as the activism with which she supports her thesis, bears powerful witness to the importance of the current issue of combatting with all our strength the insane rush of our profit-mongering economy to destroy our earth and all the life that lives upon it.
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