Toxic Atmospheres

TOXIC ATMOSPHERES. “The toxic atmospheres of industrial society”.
Coordinated by Ximo Guillem-Llobat and José Ramón Bertomeu (IHMC ‘López Piñero’), in collaboration with Clara Florensa and Agustín López (CEHIC-UAB). 04/12/2012-16/04/2013.

Talks are held in Barcelona (Institut d’Estudis Catalans) or Valencia (IHMC ‘Lopez Piñero’), but will be broadcasted simultaneously in both places.

Environmental history is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic emerging academic areas within the historical studies of science, technology and medicine. So far, not many specific initiatives have been launched in the Catalan countries but other academic communities such as the German and mainly the North American have not hesitated to invest significant efforts to promote journals, annual conferences and research centres specializing in environmental history. The seminar series on Toxic Atmospheres appears as a new opportunity to engage our local community in this area of significant value for the future of the discipline.

In this seminar series we will approach environmental history from a perspective which has a greater tradition in our context; that linked to the history of public health. Specifically, by focusing on environmental and occupational health studies we shall connect health and environment, tradition and innovation. We thus expect to stimulate intense debates and maybe even redirect future careers, but also to connect with the general public, which has stated on many occasions its interest in the environmental challenges of our society.

The series will offer a broad perspective by including researchers from Germany, France, England and Spain. Moreover, the lectures will perfectly complement each other by considering the environmental impacts of industrial society in rural and urban areas and its impact on the health of workers as well as on that of local inhabitants. The controversies will be tackled through different case studies such as: urban fumes, pesticides and countryside silicosis in mines and industry. These cases will be analysed by considering the reactions of various stakeholders including scientists, unions and local authorities.

1.1 Round table to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. With Joandomènec Ros (UB – ecologist and author of the most recent Spanish translation of Carson’s book), Miquel Porta (Hospital del Mar – Medical Research Institute researcher and expert on persistent toxic compounds), Antonio Buj Buj (UB – historian on agriculture pests in Spain and Africa), Joaquim Elcacho (science and environmental journalist), Gustavo Duch (environmental activist, author of several books and coordinator of the journal Soberania Alimentaria). Coordidated by C. Florensa & A. Lopez (CEHIC-UAB). Institut d’Estudis Catalans, Barcelona, 04/12/2012, 19:00.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Silent Spring”, which denounced the dangers of some pesticides like DDT for the health of men and other living beings. The popularity of “Silent Spring” contributed to launch a process that led to the prohibition of certain uses of DDT in the U.S. in 1972 and later in most parts of the world. This toxic compound was the first insecticide produced on a large scale and a significant source of revenue for the major agrochemical companies emerged in the first half of the twentieth century. The social, economic and political impact of this book was enormous. However, it also received huge criticism. Some alerted of the damage that banning of DDT could provoke in fighting malaria in some African countries. The best seller, the environmentalist icon, the lonely scientist and the fighter against the Goliath of big firms are different aspects of the same phenomenon that must be analyzed in all its complexity. It is worth to develop a debate on Silent Spring, tackling this phenomenon from different perspectives and interests to approach the book in a comprehensive manner. This is the objective of this round table, which includes a range of experts who will discuss the significance of Carson’s work from different angles, including history, communication, ecology, economics and social studies of science and technology, among others.

This initiative includes a blog Primavera Silenciosa 2012, containing materials helping to prepare the debate, and a twitter account (@SilentSpring12) with the latest news on the round table.

1.2. Frank Uekoetter (Rachel Carson Center. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Fellow). “Urbanity Spoiled. Pollution in the City in and beyond the Age of Smoke”. 07/02/2013, IHMC, Valencia, 17:00.

1.3. Nathalie Jas (Unité RiTME, INRA). “Agricultural Pesticides & Public Health in the Twentieth Century”. 28/02/2013, IHMC, Valencia, 17:00.

1.4. Joseph Melling (Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter). “Dangerous Trade. Histories of Industrial Hazard across a Globalizing World”. 07/03/2013, IHMC, Valencia, 17:00.

1.5. Thomas Le Roux (Maison Française d’Oxford-CNRS). “Industrial pollution and risk: the great French shift, 1750-1850”. 21/03/2013, Sala Darwin,Universitat de València, Campus Burjassot, Valencia, 12:30.

1.6. Alfredo Menéndez Navarro (Universidad de Granada). “Amianto: de problema laboral a riesgo ambiental, 1960-1980”. 16/04/2013, IHMC, Valencia, 17:00.