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A Terrible Thing to Waste
Cover of A Terrible Thing to Waste
A Terrible Thing to Waste
Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind
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A powerful indictment of the notion of hereditary intelligence, A Terrible Thing to Waste shows how environmental racism drives the black-white IQ gap and explains what can be done to remedy its toxic effects on marginalized communities. The 1994 publication of the The Bell Curve and its controversial thesis catapulted the topic of genetic racial differences in IQ to the forefront of renewed and heated debate. Now, in A Terrible Thing to Waste, award-winning science writer Harriet A. Washington adds her incisive analysis to the fray. She takes apart the spurious notion of intelligence as an inherited trait, pointing instead to environmental racism — a confluence of institutional factors that relegate marginalized communities to living and working near sites of toxic waste, pollution, and urban decay — as the prime cause of the reported black-white IQ gap. Investigating the deleterious heavy metals, neurotoxins, deficient prenatal care, bad nutrition, and pathogens as the main factors influencing intelligence, Washington explains why certain communities are so disproportionally affected and what can be done to remedy the problem.Featuring extensive scientific research and Washington's sharp, lively reporting, A Terrible Thing to Waste is sure to outrage, transform the conversation and inspire debate.
A powerful indictment of the notion of hereditary intelligence, A Terrible Thing to Waste shows how environmental racism drives the black-white IQ gap and explains what can be done to remedy its toxic effects on marginalized communities. The 1994 publication of the The Bell Curve and its controversial thesis catapulted the topic of genetic racial differences in IQ to the forefront of renewed and heated debate. Now, in A Terrible Thing to Waste, award-winning science writer Harriet A. Washington adds her incisive analysis to the fray. She takes apart the spurious notion of intelligence as an inherited trait, pointing instead to environmental racism — a confluence of institutional factors that relegate marginalized communities to living and working near sites of toxic waste, pollution, and urban decay — as the prime cause of the reported black-white IQ gap. Investigating the deleterious heavy metals, neurotoxins, deficient prenatal care, bad nutrition, and pathogens as the main factors influencing intelligence, Washington explains why certain communities are so disproportionally affected and what can be done to remedy the problem.Featuring extensive scientific research and Washington's sharp, lively reporting, A Terrible Thing to Waste is sure to outrage, transform the conversation and inspire debate.
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About the Author-
  • Harriet A. Washington has been the Shearing Fellow at the University of Nevada's Black Mountain Institute, a Research Fellow in Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School, a senior research scholar at the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University, and a visiting scholar at DePaul University College of Law. She has held fellowships at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Stanford University. She is the author of Deadly Monopolies, Infectious Madness, and Medical Apartheid, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Oakland Award, and the American Library Association Black Caucus Nonfiction Award.
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 6, 2019
    In this searing indictment, scholar and researcher Washington (Medical Apartheid) pores over decades of examples and evidence to assess the damage that “environmental poisoning” has on communities of color. Washington persuasively argues that environmental toxins are much more prevalent in areas where marginalized people live, inequitably harming the brains, health, and future of black, Hispanic, and Native American children; she identifies the consequences as a “collective loss” for the nation and staggering medical and economic costs. Washington offers anecdotal evidence and damning data—on, for example, polychlorinated biphenyl pollution in Anniston, Ala.; ongoing lead poisoning in Flint, Mich., and in Baltimore; and air contamination with pesticides (in Triana, Ala.) and arsenic (in Fort Meyers, Fla.)—to argue that the U.S. should no longer let “industrial greed” trump public safety concerns. She also makes a persuasive presentation of “brain drainers,” including toxic chemicals, substances such as tobacco, vermin, and dangerous microbes, that produce “reduced mental functioning” and “horrifying cognitive symptoms” and disproportionately affect minority populations. The structure of the book leads to frequent repetition, and the intended audience seems to switch from policy makers and Washington’s fellow researchers to parents, as in the third section, which lists actions that might limit or ameliorate children’s exposures to toxins and suggests ways communities might organize in their defense. Nonetheless, this urgent chronicle of ongoing damage will be eye-opening for many readers. Illus. Agent: Lisa Bankoff, ICM Partners.

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A Terrible Thing to Waste
A Terrible Thing to Waste
Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind
Harriet A. Washington
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