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SALE! Save 40% on UNC Press print books during our American History Sale with discount code 01DAH40. See details.

The Wild and the Toxic

American Environmentalism and the Politics of Health

By Jennifer Thomson

216 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 2 halftones

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5199-6
    Published: May 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5164-4
    Published: May 2019
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5165-1
    Published: March 2019

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Health figures centrally in late twentieth-century environmental activism. There are many competing claims about the health of ecosystems, the health of the planet, and the health of humans, yet there is little agreement among the likes of D.C. lobbyists, grassroots organizers, eco-anarchist collectives, and science-based advocacy organizations about whose health matters most, or what health even means. In this book, Jennifer Thomson untangles the complex web of political, social, and intellectual developments that gave rise to the multiplicity of claims and concerns about environmental health.

Thomson traces four strands of activism from the 1970s to the present: the environmental lobby, environmental justice groups, radical environmentalism and bioregionalism, and climate justice activism. By focusing on health, environmentalists were empowered to intervene in the rise of neoliberalism, the erosion of the regulatory state, and the decimation of mass-based progressive politics. Yet, as this book reveals, an individualist definition of health ultimately won out over more communal understandings. Considering this turn from collective solidarity toward individual health helps explain the near paralysis of collective action in the face of planetary disaster.

About the Author

Jennifer Thomson is assistant professor of history at Bucknell University.
For more information about Jennifer Thomson, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"Sophisticated and adept, this is the first book-length investigation of the role of health in postwar environmentalism."--Elena Conis, University of California, Berkeley

"This book provides a fundamental reinterpretation of the American environmental movement on both a conceptual and a historiographical level and has the potential to make major, and in some ways ground-shifting, contributions to environmental studies."--Robert Gioielli, University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College

Multimedia & Links

Listen

Thomson talks to Brian Hamilton for the New Books Network podcast. (05/17/2019, running time 46:05)