[Marxism] On Harriet A. Washington’s “A Terrible Thing to Waste"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 26 07:27:35 MST 2019

IN HER 1962 BOOK Silent Spring, Rachel Carson documented the deleterious 
effects of short-sighted public policy and toxic chemical use on our 
environment. Vivid, elegant descriptions of wildflowers blooming along 
the interstate highways prior to widespread DDT use contrasted with a 
somber desolation we could see with our own eyes to make clear that the 
world was dying — and we were the murderers. We are all connected, 
Carson reminded us, and insecticide use would do more than silence the 
songbirds. This poison would silence us.

Fifty-seven years later, Harriet A. Washington has published A Terrible 
Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American 
Mind. Just as Carson did back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, 
Washington seems to anticipate controversial responses to her book, in 
which she identifies multinational corporations that produce untested 
chemicals, bemoans government policies that allow toxins to enter our 
ecosystem, and pleas for activism among the enablers (people like you 
and me) who choose not to support fence-line communities animated in 
their pursuit of environmental justice. Washington focuses on IQ, in a 
way similar to Carson’s focus on small animals, especially birds. And, 
just as the loss of certain species of small animals seemed less 
important before the publication of Carson’s book, a few IQ points might 
seem insignificant to most Americans now. That shortsightedness will 
change after they’ve read Washington’s book. This Shearing Fellow has 
written a fact-based analysis with conclusions that should absolutely 
animate us all.


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