The ecology of pregnancy and childbirth
Sandra Steingraber, heralded by the Sierra Club as "the new Rachel Carson" will speak at McGill University about the effects of prenatal exposure to contaminants transferred to the foetus from the external environment and why this "first environment" must be considered an essential part of the biosphere.
Environmental links to cancer and reproductive health topic of lecture commemorating 40th anniversary of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring
Dr. Sandra Steingraber, professor, poet, and cancer survivor will deliver a Beatty Memorial Lecture at McGill University on the topic: The Ecology of Pregnancy and Childbirth – Protecting the First Environment."
The lecture is the first in a two-part series commemorating the 40th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and will take place on Tuesday, December 3, at 7:30 pm in the Fieldhouse Auditorium, Leacock Building Room 132.
Rachel Carson, who died of breast cancer in 1964, was a biologist and author of numerous books on the natural environment. Her most famous work, Silent Spring, was published in 1962 and followed a 15-year career in the U.S. federal service at a time when few women pursued scientific careers and even fewer dared to challenge the status quo. She was outspoken in her defense of the sanctity of the natural environment and, when testifying before the U.S. Congress in 1963, she sounded an early warning about the harmful effects of the unrestricted use of pesticides.
Sandra Steingraber has been heralded by the Sierra Club as "the new Rachel Carson" and is the recipient of the Rachel Carson Leadership Award from Carson's alma mater, Chatham College. Currently on faculty at Cornell University's Center for the Environment in Ithaca, New York, Sandra Steingraber also served on President Clinton's National Action Plan on Breast Cancer and, at international treaty negotiations on persistant organic pollutants, she briefed U.N. delegates on dioxin contamination of breast milk.
An expert on the environmental links to cancer and reproductive health, Steingraber's recent book Having Faith, examines the pollutant-cancer link and its effect on foetal development and is interwoven with intimate anecdotes from her pregnancy with her second child, Faith. In the book, she argues for the establishment of data collection programs to begin documenting the environmental links to cancer and reproductive health, and she holds the view that an informed public will push elected officials to apply existing environmental protection regulations.
Steingraber's involvement with women's groups in northern communities has led her to claim that women's freedom to choose healthy foods and to provide safe breast milk to their infants is being limited by the presence in local foodstuffs of environmental contaminants, many of which originate thousands of kilometers away. Despite her painting a sobering picture, Steingraber remains an optimist. In Having Faith, she muses about a contemporary adaptation of the inspirational tune We Shall Overcome, believing that when the links between environmental contamination and reproductive health are fully understood, people will demand action and rally together to sing her new refrain: "we shall not abstain".
At McGill, she will meet with staff, faculty and students at the McGill School of Environment. In her public lecture she will speak about the effects of prenatal exposure to contaminants transferred to the foetus from the external environment and why this "first environment" must be considered an essential part of the biosphere.
The Beatty Memorial Lectures, now celebrating their 50th anniversary, offer free public lectures by prominent international speakers on topics of wide-ranging interest.