Taking Action, Saving Lives: Our Duties to Protect Environmental and Public Health

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In the United States alone, industrial and agricultural toxins account for about 60,000 avoidable cancer deaths annually. Pollution-related health costs to Americans are similarly staggering: $13 billion a year from asthma, $351 billion from cardiovascular disease, and $240 billion from occupational disease and injury. Most troubling, children, the poor, and minorities bear the brunt of these health tragedies.
Why, asks Kristin Shrader-Frechette, has the government failed to protect us, and what can we do about it? In this book, at once brilliant and accessible, Shrader-Frechette reveals how politicians, campaign contributors, and lobbyists—and their power over media, advertising, and public relations—have conspired to cover up environmental disease and death. She also shows how science and regulators themselves are frequently "captured" by well-funded polluters and special interests. But most important, the author puts both the blame—and the solution—on the shoulders of ordinary citizens. She argues that everyone, especially in a democracy, has a duty to help prevent avoidable environmental deaths, to remain informed about, and involved in, public-health and environmental decision-making. Toward this end, she outlines specific, concrete ways in which people can contribute to life-saving reforms, many of them building on recommendations of the American Public Health Association.
As disturbing as it is, Shrader-Frechette's message is ultimately hopeful. Calling for a new "democratic revolution," she reminds us that while only a fraction of the early colonists supported the American Revolution, that tiny group managed to change the world. Her book embodies the conviction that we can do the same for environmental health, particularly if citizens become the change they seek.

"Timely, accessible, and written with enviable clarity and passion. A distinguished philosopher sounds an ethical call to arms to prevent illness and death from pollution."
—Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard University

"Influential and impressive. A must-read."
—Nicholas A. Ashford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"By one of America's foremost philosophers and public intellectuals; immensely readable, courageous, often startling, insightful."
—Richard Hiskes, University of Connecticut

"Like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring—brilliant, brave."
—Sylvia Hood Washington, University of Illinois, Chicago

"A blistering account of how advocacy must be brought to bear on issues of justice and public health."
— Jeffrey Kahn, University of Minnesota

"No other author can so forcefully bring together ethical analysis, government policy, and environmental science. Outstanding."
—Colleen Moore, University of Wisconsin

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One of the most powerful academic books I have read and heard of. It is philosophically sound and coherent, but if this was all I said about it, I am not sure Shrader-Frechette would regard it as a compliment. She wants more than that. She hopes her book will inspire the readers to act. "Philosophically sound and coherent" is just not enough ... if all that is going to happen to the reader when he or she reads the book is just thinking "Oh my God, this is awful", then the reader has missed something. After reading Taking Action, Saving Lives, one should take action and save lives. Hopefully, you will not be the same person you were before reading it. " —Avner de Shalit, Political Studies Review

"This book is inspirational as much as it is scientific.... Highly recommended."—M. Gochfeld, CHOICE

"Kristin Shrader-Frechette is a unique voice in environmental ethics. Her new book, 'Taking Action, Saving Lives, is a welcome addition to her impressive list of books examining aspects of environmental policy from a richly informed philosophical perspective. This book offers an accessible primer for anyone who wants to know the kinds of things one needs to know in order to reflect on questions of environmental ethics from a perspective that elevates human health risks to the foreground."—Madison Powers, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195325461
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/19/2007
  • Series: Environmental Ethics and Science Policy Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Kristin Shrader-Frechette is O'Neill Family Endowed Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, where she also directs the Center for Environmental Justice and Children's Health. Advisor to the United Nations and to many countries and U.S. agencies on public health, environmental justice, bioethics, and nuclear-waste management, Shrader-Frechette is the author of fifteen books and some 350 articles.

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Table of Contents

1. Lives at Risk
2. Orchestrating Ignorance, Ignoring Consent
3. Private Science, Public Injury
4. Human Rights and Duties not to Harm
5. Obstacles to Responsibility
6. Where We Go from Here

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