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“Living Downstream” by Sandra Steingraber

With the prevalence of cancer increasing every year in the United States, several health, environmental and social enthusiasts have stepped up campaigns to fight this problem. In particular, scientists have raised concern over the increasing level of carcinogens in the air, water, soil and foodstuffs. In her film “living downstream”, biologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber attempts to present her work in following up the distribution of carcinogens in North America. Steingraber investigates the link between environmental hazards (toxins) and cancer, arguing that environmental toxins are carcinogenic agents responsible for the increasing rates of cancer in the US. The purpose of this paper is to develop a comprehensive reflection on Steingraber’s movie and a book by the same name. Arguably, despite evidence of bias in her work and campaigns against environmental toxins, it is quite clear that she has done extensive research in the topic, which is backed by her experience as a cancer victim and researcher in biology.

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In her work, it is clear that Steingraber has taken a clear stance against the release of chemicals and chemical elements in the environment. Her work is supported by science and empirical evidence. There is no doubt that she spent years studying the phenomenon prior to writing the book and developing the film. Although there may be some bias, which is a common phenomenon in scientific studies, it is worth noting that she is using her scientific prowess, strong academic background, and experience as a cancer victim and skills as both an author and a poet to fight for the best interest of humans. Therefore, I believe that Steingraber is not only acting as a responsible scientist, but also a responsible American and human. Moreover, she is acting on behalf of millions of Americans who are exposed to tens or hundreds of chemicals in water, food, soil and air. Unknowingly, millions of Americans are subjected to cancer, the leading cause of painful death in the modern times.

With strong scientific and empirical evidence, there is no doubt that the film and book are based on facts rather than fallacies. Obviously, science and scientific fraternity does not allow individuals to publish peer-reviewed work based on fallacies. Although it is possible to publish manipulated evidence in science, a huge body of biochemical and molecular evidence proves that carcinogenic agents trigger cancer through interference with pro-oncogenes or other genetics aspects of cancer (Living Downstream). Therefore, I believe that Steingraber is attempting to use her knowledge, research and proficiency to fight one of the most dangerous threats facing humankind in the modern times.

An in-depth review of Sandra Steingraber’s two works “living downstream” and “raising Elijah” reveals that humans are living in an environment that harbors a huge number of invisible threats to their survival. In her book “Raising Elija”, Steingraber reveals that parents do their best to protect their children. However, a number of roles are beyond parental efforts or obligations. She argues that the entire society, led by the government, should be responsible for taking care of the environment where our children are growing (Steingraber 126). In fact, the three works have changed my perspectives towards our roles in the environment. I realize that people like me, who have prior knowledge of the existence of carcinogens and other harmful molecules in the environment, tend to ignore scientific facts by failing to take actions (Living Downstream). I also realize that we owe our children and other people a natural duty of care- to help in reducing the number of chemical threats within our environments. Therefore, I tend to blame the government for its laxity, ignorance and arrogance towards developing safety procedures, guidelines and regulations to cater for the environment. Despite the government’s efforts to reduce the threats of harmful chemicals in foodstuffs and water, it is clear that the agents assigned the task of doing this are not doing enough to secure our environment. I liken Steingraber’s work to the film “Food Inc”, which describes the laxity in agents such as FDA.

As a student of science and future scientist, I plan to be actively involved in the fight against environmental pollution. I believe that it is our role to provide the required information and guidelines to the government, agents, activists as well as the community in general in reducing the environmental threats. I plan to inform as many people as possible through publishing my findings. In addition, I intend to join organizations and groups that are actively following people like Steingraber in fighting for our environment.

In my career, I hope to be one of the few individuals who will save the world from these threats. Science is responsible for the problems we are facing, including cancers and other diseases. Yet, I believe that science is responsible and capable of reversing the impacts we have already caused on our environment. From the review of Steingraber’s work, I realize that some issues need additional research to elucidate. For instance, I intend to carry out additional research to determine the possibility that most of the mechanization techniques used in food production leave “trace elements” in the foodstuffs offered for sale in the US. Although there are several other researchers attempting to describe this phenomenon, I believe the field is quite extensive and requires adequate cooperation from scientists. As Steingraber’s states, toxins of our own-making threaten every aspect of our modern environment.

Secondly, I would to carry out additional studies to determine the best way of removing the huge toxins that have lodged in our water, soil, air and environment. Apart from avoiding further release of the chemicals into the environment, we need to find effective ways of removing the molecules we have already released to the environment.

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I strongly believe that the role of evaluating the threats posed by chemicals in the environment is should not be left to the government alone. Every American should be involved in one way or the other. At the local level, citizens should understand that they have a responsibility of evaluating the amount and threats of toxic chemicals in their environment. They should move around their residential or workplaces and observe the possible sources of toxins, including factories, farms, garages, dumpsites, mines, sewages and other features. In addition, they should report to the relevant agents or authorities. On its part, the government should enhance the existing agencies by emphasizing on additional research, funding, and strategies to curb the problem. In addition, the government must involve the corporate world in the evaluation process. For example, factories and other industries accused of releasing chemicals should be involved in evaluating their actions on the environment. They should be aware that their actions pose a major threat to their business and survival in addition to threatening the society.

Works Cited

Living downstream. Ex. Prod. Sandra Steingraber. New York: The People’s Picture Company. 2010. DVD.

Steingraber, Sandra. Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis. Cambdige, MA: Da Capo Press, 2011. Print.

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