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Book part
Publication date: 20 December 2013

Michael R. Edelstein

Bill Freudenburg’s concept of recreancy is used as a frame for explaining processes that perpetuate questionable regimes of emergency response planning. The specific…

Abstract

Bill Freudenburg’s concept of recreancy is used as a frame for explaining processes that perpetuate questionable regimes of emergency response planning. The specific instance of tar sands upgrading in Alberta, Canada, is used as a case in point. When recreancy is institutionalized so that the results correlate across permitted hazardous facilities, it must be concluded that recreancy is less of a situational response than a normative dynamic.

Book part
Publication date: 16 May 2007

Janice L. Hastrup, Sherilyn N. Thomas and Michael R. Edelstein

In this chapter we explore some of the intriguing questions raised by contaminated communities. Is there a connection between exposure to environmental hazards and…

Abstract

In this chapter we explore some of the intriguing questions raised by contaminated communities. Is there a connection between exposure to environmental hazards and psychological distress? If yes, how best can it be measured? What kinds of psychological problems are aggravated by this kind of life stress? How do we know that victims are truly experiencing increased problems such as anxiety, depression and fears about their health?

Details

Cultures of Contamination
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-7623-1371-6

Book part
Publication date: 16 May 2007

Michael R. Edelstein and Lyudmila V. Smirnova

Four cast iron lions guard the charming Lions footbridge crossing St. Petersburg's Griboedov Canal. The first author strolled across the bridge on an August evening in…

Abstract

Four cast iron lions guard the charming Lions footbridge crossing St. Petersburg's Griboedov Canal. The first author strolled across the bridge on an August evening in 1998 with a Russian friend, Polina. The experience presents a parable for concluding this volume:As we crossed the bridge in the dark, we barely avoided stepping into a gaping hole in the deck half way across. A person could easily fall through. I reacted as a typical American, immediately taking responsibility for doing something about the problem, looking for some board to place over the hole or a barrier to warn pedestrians or someone to report the hazard to who would address it promptly. Polina indicated that no Russian would make such a fuss, and she could think of no one to report the hazard to who would respond. As we stood discussing this problem before two of the guardian lions, a group of drunken soldiers began to cross the bridge from the far side, arm in arm, singing loudly. Sure enough, one slipped through the hole and, but for his comrades holding his arms, he would have plunged into the canal. Surely they will report it, I said, but Polina was doubtful. She saw little chance for some protective action to fix the bridge or even to warn passers-by to beware. We went on our way mindful of the problem left behind. Perhaps a month after my return to the U.S., I received an email from Polina that she had gone to the bridge and, to her surprise, it was fixed. “Perhaps,” she wrote, “there is hope for Russia after all.”

Details

Cultures of Contamination
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-7623-1371-6

Book part
Publication date: 16 May 2007

Michael R. Edelstein

What are the dynamics of a contaminated community – in Russia or the U.S.? These six diverse chapters chart what I have called “Environmental Turbulence,” the disrupted…

Abstract

What are the dynamics of a contaminated community – in Russia or the U.S.? These six diverse chapters chart what I have called “Environmental Turbulence,” the disrupted complacency of everyday life caused by accepting information about one's exposure to environmental contamination as fact. The Theory of Environmental Turbulence (Edelstein 2004) posits that normal social and institutional networks regularly fail to help toxic victims address their needs, forcing victims to band together in common response.

Details

Cultures of Contamination
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-7623-1371-6

Book part
Publication date: 16 May 2007

Michael R. Edelstein

Sustainability is a catch term for the different way of life required to counter the ills of the modern era. It encompasses new social and economic as well as ecological…

Abstract

Sustainability is a catch term for the different way of life required to counter the ills of the modern era. It encompasses new social and economic as well as ecological relationships. Sustainability theory is, by its nature, hopeful in envisioning an alternative corrective course of action. This volume deals with “the negative legacy problem” that confounds this optimism because we have so profoundly contaminated and altered the earth in lasting ways. Any effort to create a sustainable future will have to deal with this legacy. It is a huge and profound burden faced unevenly by people and non-humans today and that we have left for future generations (see Edelstein, 2006).

Details

Cultures of Contamination
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-7623-1371-6

Book part
Publication date: 29 November 2012

Michael R. Edelstein

From the lead editor's nearly forty years of work on environmental disaster, there is a basic rule of thumb that has never disappointed (Edelstein, 2000, 2004). No matter…

Abstract

From the lead editor's nearly forty years of work on environmental disaster, there is a basic rule of thumb that has never disappointed (Edelstein, 2000, 2004). No matter how severe the direct impacts of a disaster are, at least half the stress comes from the secondary psychosocial impacts involved in dealing with the aftermath. In the case of the Aral Sea, most of the stress is back loaded. The population of Karkalpakstan, particularly those living by and working on the sea, was literally left high and dry, suffering substantial psychosocial and health impacts.1

Details

Disaster by Design: The Aral Sea and its Lessons for Sustainability
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-376-6

Book part
Publication date: 29 November 2012

Michael R. Edelstein

The Aral Sea Disaster was a failure of social learning. Rather than evidencing a society that learned from its experiences and modified its behavior to create outcomes…

Abstract

The Aral Sea Disaster was a failure of social learning. Rather than evidencing a society that learned from its experiences and modified its behavior to create outcomes that could be sustained over time, there was a self-destructive element in the Soviet approach that, in this case, proved amazingly effective. Once an idea was advanced from the top, a whole array of social mechanisms were deployed to take the concept at its literal or face value and make it into an unassailable truth, even when many of the actors fully understood the futility, foolishness or destructiveness of the venture. Moreover, it was the nature of the system to employ a rigid system of accountability even for a lax system of feasibility. People lost careers, homes and lives for failure to meet quotas. More often, numbers were doctored. Blame was shifted to the least powerful while the true weakest links were bolstered. Corruption further distorted a system that was based on distortion. Everything in the system was a distortion but for the one crucial ability to deliver the required action, regardless of the outcome. The western concept of gridlock, where a project faces innumerable hurdles, applies here only to the correctives, mitigations and solutions, but not to principle action.

Details

Disaster by Design: The Aral Sea and its Lessons for Sustainability
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-376-6

Book part
Publication date: 29 November 2012

Michael R. Edelstein

Having established multiple disasters now radiating from the core loss of the Aral Sea, we turn to the volume's theme of Disaster by Design in Section Two. Neither the…

Abstract

Having established multiple disasters now radiating from the core loss of the Aral Sea, we turn to the volume's theme of Disaster by Design in Section Two. Neither the trunk nor the branches was a natural process; all took root in the hands of humans intent on altering nature to serve humans.

Details

Disaster by Design: The Aral Sea and its Lessons for Sustainability
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-376-6

Book part
Publication date: 16 May 2007

Michael R. Edelstein

What can we learn about cultures of contamination from our comparison of Russia and the United States? Three final chapters offer some perspective.

Abstract

What can we learn about cultures of contamination from our comparison of Russia and the United States? Three final chapters offer some perspective.

Details

Cultures of Contamination
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-7623-1371-6

Book part
Publication date: 16 May 2007

Michael R. Edelstein and Catherine McVay Hughes

The City of New York was suddenly and deliberately attacked on September 11, 2001, killing thousands of people and leaving unbelievable destruction. Thirty-eight buildings…

Abstract

The City of New York was suddenly and deliberately attacked on September 11, 2001, killing thousands of people and leaving unbelievable destruction. Thirty-eight buildings and structures were destroyed or damaged, including seven buildings in the World Trade Center site completely leveled. Almost five years later, two very large contaminated buildings, Deutsche Bank at 130 Liberty Street and Fiterman Hall of Borough of Manhattan Community College, have yet to be cleaned up and demolished. Some 30 million square feet of commercial space was lost. Transportation was disrupted, including the loss of the World Trade Center PATH station, the 1/9 subway line and portions of Route 9A and Church Street. Cars were not allowed south of Canal Street for a week. For Americans this was a terrorist attack and a crime. It was a time for mourning losses and responding to disaster. There was the shock that something like this could happen. And there was more. The destruction of the WTC also posed competing environmental, economic and social threats.

Details

Cultures of Contamination
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-7623-1371-6

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