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The Fracking of Rachel Carson: "Silent Spring" in an Age of Environmental Crisis

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Sandra Steingraber, Environmental Studies and Sciences Department, Ithaca College


A cancer survivor, Dr. Sandra Steingraber has written extensively on the intersection of the environment and public health. She will discuss what we have learned, and failed to learn, in the 50 years since Rachel Carson’s  publication of Silent Spring, and will examine the threat to public health that fracking poses.


Sandra Steingraber’s highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment presents cancer as a human rights issue. Originally published in 1997, it was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with data from U.S. cancer registries and won praise from international media including The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, The Lancet, and The London Times.


Continuing the investigation begun in Living Downstream, Steingraber’s book, Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, explores the intimate ecology of motherhood. Both a memoir of her own pregnancy and an investigation of fetal toxicology, Having Faith reveals the extent to which environmental hazards now threaten each stage of infant development.  In the eyes of an ecologist, the mother’s body is the first environment for life. The Library Journal selected Having Faith as a best book of 2001, and it was featured in a PBS documentary by Bill Moyers.


Called “a poet with a knife” by Sojourner magazine, Steingraber has received many honors for her work as a science writer.  She was named a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year and later received the Jenifer Altman Foundation’s first annual Altman Award for “the inspiring and poetic use of science to elucidate the causes of cancer.”  The Sierra Club has heralded Steingraber as “the new Rachel Carson,” and Carson’s own alma mater, Chatham College, selected Steingraber to receive its biennial Rachel Carson Leadership Award. In 2006, Steingraber received a Hero Award from the Breast Cancer Fund and, in 2009, the Environmental Health Champion Award from Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles.


A columnist for Orion magazine, Sandra Steingraber is currently a scholar in residence in Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. She is married to the artist Jeff de Castro, and they live in a 1000-square-foot house with a push mower, a clothesline, a vegetable garden, and two beloved children.

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