Toxic truths

Environmental justice and citizen science in a post-truth age

Edited by Thom Davies and Alice Mah

Toxic truths

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3702-9
  • Pages: 352
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: July 2020
  • BIC Category: Sociology, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy, Impact Of Science & Technology On Society, Society & social sciences / Sociology & anthropology, Pollution & Threats To The Environment, Social Impact Of Environmental Issues


Debates over science, facts, and values are pivotal in the struggle for environmental justice. For decades, environmental justice activists have campaigned against the misuse of science, engaging in community-led citizen science that champions knowledge produced by and for ordinary people living with environmental risks and hazards. However, post-truth politics have threatened science itself. Toxic truths examines the relationship between environmental justice and citizen science, focusing on enduring issues and new challenges in a post-truth age.

The volume features a range of community-based participatory environmental health and justice research projects that seek to establish different ways of sensing, witnessing, and interpreting environmental injustice. From struggles in American hog country and contaminated indigenous communities, to local environmental controversies in Spain and China, this volume examines political strategies for seeking environmental justice. With international, interdisciplinary contributions from distinguished authors, emerging scholars and community activists, Toxic truths is essential reading for those seeking to understand the cutting edge of citizen science and activism around the world.


'Toxic Truths highlights a myriad of threats facing our communities and ecosystems in this post-truth age, then pushes back and moves us forward with an array of examples of how ordinary people are democratizing science and knowledge production, and pursuing effective political action to tip the balance in favor of environmental justice movements across five continents. I am truly inspired by this powerful collection.'
David N. Pellow, Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of the Global Environmental Justice Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of What is Critical Environmental Justice?

'This is a book about knowledge tactics and politics in efforts to address environmental injustice in settings around the world. It is both a great history and set of cases about environmental justice activism, and an inspiring, creative guide for future work.'
Kim Fortun, Professor and Chair of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine, and author of Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders

'The contributors to this book have done a sterling job in problematizing how toxically exposed citizens, in the main, remain politically passive actors in the struggle for ecological justice in the posttruth age. Toxic Truths shows how this must now transformatively change: not just through having more citizen science, but having it in different social, political, and scientific forms that support more equitable forms of environmental justice; and not just in those affected communities, but the nonstate institutions that so often support the posttruths politics of the political elite.'
AAG Review of Books


Introduction: Tackling environmental injustice in a post-truth age - Thom Davies and Alice Mah

Part I: Environmental justice and participatory citizen science
Introduction to Part I - Alice Mah
1 Toxic trespass: Science, activism, and policy concerning chemicals in our bodies - Phil Brown, Vanessa De La Rosa, and Alissa Cordner
2 Making effective participatory environmental health science through collaborative data analysis - Barbara L. Allen
3 Crude justice: Community-based research amid oil development in South Los Angeles - Bhavna Shamasunder, Jessica Blickley, Marissa Chan, Ashley Collier-Oxandale, James L. Sadd, Sandy Navarro, Nicole J. Wong, and Michael Hannigan
4 Environmental injustice in North Carolina's hog industry: Lessons learned from community-driven participatory research and the "people's professor" - Sarah Rhodes and KD Brown, Larry Cooper, Naeema Muhammad, and Devon Hall

Part II: Sensing and witnessing injustice
Introduction to Part II - Thom Davies
5 The auger: A tool of environmental justice in Ecuadorian toxic tours - Amelia Fiske
6 Witnessing e-waste through participatory photography in Ghana - Peter C. Little
7 Making sense of visual pollution: The "Clean City" law in São Paulo, Brazil - Marina Da Silva

Part III: Political strategies for seeking environmental justice
Introduction to Part III - Alice Mah
8 Legitimating confrontational discourses by local environmental groups: The case of air quality monitoring in a Spanish industrial area - Miguel A. López-Navarro
9 Environmental justice in industrially contaminated sites: From the development of a national surveillance system to the birth of an international network - Roberto Pasetto and Ivano Iavarone
10 Soft confrontation: Strategic actions of an environmental organization in China - Xinhong Wang and Yuanni Wang

Part IV: Expanding citizen science
Introduction to Part IV - Thom Davies
11 Whose citizenship in "citizen science"? Tribal identity, civic dislocation, and environmental health research - Elizabeth Hoover
12 Modes of engagement: Reframing "sensing" and data generation in citizen science for empowering relationships - João Porto de Albuquerque and André Albino de Almeida
13 Science, citizens, and air pollution: Constructing environmental (in)justice - Anneleen Kenis
14 Beyond the data treadmill: Environmental enumeration, justice, and apprehension - Nicholas Shapiro, Nasser Zakariya, and Jody A. Roberts



Thom Davies is Assistant Professor in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham

Alice Mah is Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick

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