“HOW DID WE get here?” is one of the most frequently asked questions when people hear about the perils of climate change or the impacts of pollution. It is often followed by “Why didn’t anybody stop it?”
The Polluters answers these question in an unsettling, thoroughly researched and surprisingly engaging manner. The book looks at the U.S.’s pollution history from the 1860s to the 1960s, and reveals the buried truth about how industries used economic and political power to dodge environmental regulation.
The Polluters, which took 10 years to research, references both infamous examples (such as DDT) and cases less known (such as the town of Donora, Pennsylvania, which lost around 20 of its residents as a result of toxic air pollution in 1948) and is the first to put a name to many of those responsible for not only polluting the environment, but also taking the lives of hundreds of its citizens.
According to former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s chief speechwriter, David Kusnet, “no matter how much you think you know about this issue, you’ll learn something from this book.” Although the book focusses solely on the U.S., it is relevant to many readers, particularly in light of recent tragedies such as the three-month Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, now largely blamed on corporate failure.
From the writing, you would never suspect that The Polluters is written by two environmental scientists: it’s sophisticated, tense and surprisingly engaging. The Polluters will leave you feeling unsettled; but hopefully, with Deepwater Horizon fresh in our minds, environmental oversight and regulation might well stand a chance at controlling industry.