“Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment” by Sandra Steingraber
In her epic book, “Living Downstream,” biologist and poet Sandra Steingraber picks up where Rachel Carson’s landmark book on environmental change caused by humans, “Silent Spring,” left off and further making the case that the things we greedily shove into our environment can have, and have had, negative effects on human life.
Steingraber has battled cancer since her twenties, and so have other members of her (adoptive) family from rural Illinois. Obviously, this wasn’t genetic, so this got her wondering, and so she’s delved into the higher rates of cancer in industrial areas, and areas where the most chemicals and other toxins are created and released – and the spike in this correlation since World War Two. (Many chemicals were developed for warfare during WW2, then were repurposed as pesticides afterward. All the data shows the surge in cancers and other diseases in humans and animals after that time. Charming, huh?)
Steingraber writes of her own personal battles with cancer, as well as the battles of many MANY others, beautifully. She points out hard truths and asks tough questions.
“As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I am grateful that my father did not die in a typhus epidemic in Naples. But as a survivor of cancer, as a native of Tazewell County, and as a member of the most poisoned generation to come of adult age, I am sorry that cooler heads did not prevail in the calm prosperity of peacetime, when careful consideration and a longer view on public health were once again permissible and necessary. I am sorry that no one asked, ‘Is this the industrial path we want to continue along? Is this the most reasonable way to rid our dogs of fleas and our trees of gypsy moths? Is this the safest material for a baby’s pacifier or for a tub of margarine?’ Or that those who did ask such questions were not heard.”
“Living Downstream” is a hard book to read, despite the fact that it’s well written, compelling and actually quite lovely. It’s a book that will make you think twice about going outside, and will definitely open your eyes to the dangers in the world around us — and how, despite scientific evidence, the companies and governments with the money are going to do whatever they want unless someone stops them…