Green Intelligence


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Creating Environments That Protect Human Health

John Wargo

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Click here to listen to John Wargo interviewed on NPR's Living on Earth.

An environmental expert offers sound advice on the world’s growing chemical dangers

We live in a world awash in manmade chemicals, from the pesticides on our front lawns to the diesel exhaust in the air we breathe. Although experts are beginning to understand the potential dangers of these substances, there are still more than 80,000 synthetic compounds that have not been sufficiently tested to interpret their effects on human health. Yale University professor John Wargo has spent much of his career researching the impact of chemical exposures on women and children. In this book, he explains the origins of society’s profound misunderstanding of everyday chemical hazards and offers a practical path toward developing greater “green intelligence.”

Despite the rising trend in environmental awareness, information about synthetic substances is often unavailable, distorted, kept secret, or presented in a way that prevents citizens from acting to reduce threats to their health and the environment. By examining the histories of five hazardous technologies and practices, Wargo finds remarkable patterns in the delayed discovery of dangers and explains the governments’ failures to manage them effectively. Sobering yet eminently readable, Wargo’s book ultimately offers a clear vision for a safer future through prevention, transparency, and awareness.

John Wargo is professor of environmental policy, risk analysis, and political science at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Department of Political Science at Yale University. The author of Our Children’s Toxic Legacy, he has been an adviser to Vice President Al Gore, the U.S. Congress, the U.N. World Health Organization, and other institutions.

Green Intelligence is by far the most informed, cogent, and readable of the books on the environment that I have encountered. His argument is clear and compelling, his approach is unusual and insightful, and his science is sound.”—Herbert Needleman, M.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

“A sobering assessment of the impacts that the late twentieth century’s chemical revolution has had on the global environment and human health, Green Intelligence offers a sweeping view of a vast terrain that is invisible to most Americans and that has not been previously explored.”—Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine

"A great book on one of the most neglected aspects of the human predicament—the toxification of our planet. Green Intelligence tells the tale through a series of case histories full of personal interest, making it an engrossing read as well as a dependable source of information. And it ends with a bonus—sound advice on how to reduce your own exposure to toxics."—Paul R. Ehrlich, co-author of The Dominant Animal

“From nuclear war to farm chemicals to the diesel fumes inside the big yellow school bus, Green Intelligence covers it all, offering us a comprehensive anatomy and a clear-sighted vision for rescue. Bravo!"–Sandra Steingraber, author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment

“This volume is a twenty-first century Silent Spring distilled and brought up to date with appealing prose. . . a disturbing book of revelations about the soup of manmade pollutants that permeates the entire world. . . Green Intelligence also provides a clear roadmap for the ways forward. . . Required reading for all citizens and leaders.”—Thomas E. Lovejoy, Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment

“This is the book to read on the full array of chemical dangers in our environment. It is comprehensive, eloquent, deeply informed, and full of practical wisdom.”—Donald Worster, University of Kansas

“Readers of Green Intelligence will find themselves outraged by the levels of exposure we as a society face from harmful chemicals. But this prodigious book is that rare combination which not only produces indignation by informing, but also catalyzes action and guides reform by inspiring.”—Frances Beinecke, President, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)


"Wargo's proposed strategy for winning the chemical war is sensible: we need to create an environmentally intelligent society, one that is conscious of the ways in which humanity is transforming the chemistry of the environment and our bodies. . . . His clear-eyed approach offers transparency and a solution to the frenzy of chemical misinformation in our lives."—Stephanie Wallis, The Ecologist

". . . Wargo, a Yale University professor, paints his distressing landscape of modern ecology, . . . coloring it with the histories of . . . pernicious practices that have changed the chemistry of the planet and our bodies: the use of modern-day pesticides, the consumption of vehicle emissions and the widespread adoption of plastics. Wargo reveals how information about synthetic substances has been distorted and kept secret preventing people from taking action to reduce threats to their health. . . . [Wargo] punctuates the book with ways in which people can take back long-violated environments and reclaim their ecological wellbeing."—Publishers Weekly

"[Wargo's] arguments are empirical, scientifically literate and ultimately convincing. . . . The result is a powerful indictment of a flawed system."—Rob Edwards, New Scientist

Wargo's "eye-opening new book."—Keith Goetzman, UTNE Reader

Named a favorite Science Book of 2009 by Scientific American

Selected by 800-CEO-READ as one of the Best Books of 2009 in the "Big Ideas" category

Finalist of the 2009 Book of the Year Award, presented by ForeWord magazine

Received Honorable Mention for the 2010 Green Book Festival Awards in the Scientific category

Gold Medal winner of the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Award in the Environment/Ecology/Nature category

A finalist in the category of Nonfiction for the 2010 Connecticut Book Award, given by the Connecticut Center for the Book

ISBN: 9780300110371
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
400 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
17 b/w illus.
Our Children's Toxic Legacy

How Science and Law Fail to Protect Us from Pesticides

John Wargo

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