Perils of Progress: Environmental Disasters in the 20th Century / Edition 1

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The increasing pace and specialization of historical inquiry caused an ever-widening gap between professional research and general surveys of world history. The titles in the Connections series are designed to bridge that gap by placing the latest research, on selected topics of global significance into an easily accessible context for students. Brief and tightly focused, each Connections title examines cross-cultural themes by employing a combination, of narrative, documents, and analysis to show students connections in world history.

Large-scale technological failures, tar from being exceptional, are normal in modern world history. Seen in a world historical rather than narrowly national context, technological disasters happen with astonishing frequency-regardless of political system, cultural context, and level of economic development. In the words of one influential sociologist in disaster studies, large-scale technological disasters are "normal accidents" inevitable products of the interaction of flawed human beings with incredibly complex and dangerous technological and scientific processes. Just like pollution, toxic waste disasters are a result, of progress rather than its antithesis. So why are societies so often incapable of seeing this connection?

This book inserts the often overlooked costs of modern industrial and urban development back into the story of modern world history. It uses four case studies to examine the political, social, and ecological fallout of technological and toxic-waste disasters in the twentieth century: the mass mercury poisoning of Japanese fishermen in Minamata Japan after World War II; the Love Canal chemical dump that devastated the community of Niagara Falls in the United States in the 1970s; a colossal chemical leak in the Indian city of Bhopal in December 1984; and the explosion of a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union in 1986. While each of these disasters is associated with a specific year or decade, from the 1950s to the 1980s, the factors that caused these disasters and their aftermath span a much longer time period and encompass the entire twentieth century.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780136038023
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 4/2/2010
  • Series: Connections Series for World History Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 1,050,865
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Andrew Jenks, an associate professor of history at California State University Long Beach, is a specialist in Russian history, history of technology, and environmental history. In addition to publishing numerous articles in scholarly publications on a range of topics, he has authored a book on Russian national identity, Russia in a Box: Art and Identity in an Age of Revolution, Northern Illinois University Press, and is currently finishing a biography of the world's first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, The Cosmonaut Who Couldn't Stop Smiling: Yuri Gagarin and the Many Faces of Modern Russia, Northern Illinois University Press. Before receiving his Ph.D. in Russian history and history of technology from Stanford University in 2002, Jenks worked in the 1990s as a journalist and editor in Washington, D.C., where he covered NASA, EPA, secret military high-tech programs, and the emerging Internet business. He studied Russian language at the Pushkin Russian Language Institute in Moscow in the late 1980s, where he also worked as a translator in the Moscow CNN office. He also worked for six months on Soviet fishing boats in the Bering Sea.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Minamata Disaster and the True Costs of Japanese Modernization 13

2 Love Canal and the Law of Unintended Consequences 43

3 The Bhopal Gas Tragedy: A Perfect Storm of Injustice 70

4 The Techno-Politics of Disaster: Chernobyl and the Collapse of the Soviet Union 106

Epilogue: Making Connections 136

Bibliography 148

Index 156

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