On December 3rd environmental activists, scholars, students, and community members met to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Rachel Carson’s landmark work Silent Spring and to launch the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI) at Northeastern University. The event was co-sponsored by PROTECT. Over forty people attended the lectures and reception. Julia Brody, Executive Director of Silent Spring Institute, which draws its name from Carson’s Silent Spring, spoke about Carson’s role in shaping modern environmentalism. Brody was followed by Kalila Barnett, Executive Director of Alternatives for Community and Environment, a community organization based in Roxbury which works on issues of environmental justice, youth empowerment, and transit justice. Gary Cohen, Executive Director of Health Care Without Harm explored the macro-level concerns of a toxified environment, including national security concerns or environmental terrorism and effects of global warming. He also intertwined important successes made by environmental movements, including the implementation of EPA’s Superfund program.
Silent Spring, published in 1962 marks the beginning of the modern environmental movement and an emergence of understanding of the relationships between environmental hazards and human health problems. SSEHRI is directed by Phil Brown, who has a long history of collaboration with the organizations whose leaders spoke at the event. The Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute hopes to build on the wonderful community of environmental science, public health expertise, community activism, and environmental health advocacy that exists in the Boston area, and along with PROTECT, to turn Northeastern University into a destination for future environmental health scholars.