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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Environmental Injustice

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September 30, 2009

Book Roundup Wednesday: Environmental Injustice

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today we're recommending books about environmental injustice.

Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland (by Jeff Biggers, $27, Nation Books, Jan. 2010): Biggers's book about coal mining in Illinois analyzes the ruins of his family’s strip-mined homestead in the Shawnee National Forest and takes a serious look at the human and environmental costs. His region is a historical hotbed for coal, and this volume provides a worthy look into the negative impacts of a dirty fuel and generates considerable thought about whether America should continue to invest in coal.

Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (by Riki Ott, $22, Chelsea Green, Nov. 2008): For a firsthand look at the effects the Exxon Valdez oil spill had on Alaskans, as well as the dangers of America's oil addiction, this is the ideal book. Former Prince William Sound fisherman Riki Ott writes of the financial, social, and psychological impacts the 1989 disaster had on the people of Cordova, Alaska. The book is neatly divided into chronological sections, detailing through her lens the time leading up to, during, and long after the spill, including the shocking decision that reduced the fine from $5 billion to $500 million.

Toxic Truth: A Scientist, a Doctor, and the Battle over Lead (by Lydia Denworth, $28, Beacon Press, Mar. 2009): Denworth investigates the history of the discovery of lead's toxicity by telling the stories of two individuals who initially questioned the hazards of lead. The narrative takes readers all the way to lead's removal from gasoline, paint, and food cans in the 1970s. This is an informative book that provides significant insight into the clash of science and industry, and into why it took so long to act on such a dangerous element.

Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples (by Mark Dowie, $28, MIT Press, May 2009): Large conservation organizations are keen on protecting huge amounts of land, but at what cost? Dowie illustrates how a determination to establish conservation areas worldwide has led to the displacement of millions of indigenous people since 1900. Dowie looks at a handful of native groups that he claims have suffered because of the works of the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International. Since environmental nonprofits and indigenous people both cherish biological diversity, the book advocates for cooperation toward conservation goals.

--Michael Mullaley

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