Bridging the Great Divide: Environmental Health and the Environmental Movement

By Berg, Rebecca | Journal of Environmental Health, January-February 2005 | Go to article overview

Bridging the Great Divide: Environmental Health and the Environmental Movement


Berg, Rebecca, Journal of Environmental Health


Picture a Journal of Environmental Health (JEH) staff member, off-duty, at a party. It's a big party, full of people who don't know each other and who keep asking each other what they "do." Every time our heroine says she works for JEH, faces light up.

"Really?"

"That's so cool."

"How did you break in?"

People like her. They introduce her to their children as a role model. She's the real thing, someone who makes a living doing good for the planet.

It's tempting to bask, but she feels honor bound to explain that she's not quite what they think. At the words "public health," faces fall. At the words "restaurant inspections," eyes glaze over.

And then, let's say our heroine has some environmentalist acquaintances--the real "real thing." They tend to be polite about her work--if they know what environmental health is--but a little disapproving of it as too "establishment." She, in turn, considers them snobs, and yet--and yet she wants them to understand that she cares about the environment, too, she really does.

JEH suspects that dynamics like these may be a microcosm of the not-always-articulated tensions playing out every day between environmental health professionals and the environmental movement. This article explores those tensions, looking at the origins of the two fields, considering some areas of overlap and divergence, and asking, above all, why environmental health has not been able to elicit the passionate interest that has given the environmental movement such name recognition. Why is environmental health, unlike "the environment," not broadly recognized as one of the central issues of our times?

The Present State of Affairs: Mutual Wariness

Grievances on the Environmental Health Side

The environmental health profession always has been "a little bit afraid of" environmental groups, noted Chris Wiant, formerly of the Tri-County Health Department in Colorado.

A Sense of Betrayal

According to Mel Knight, director of the Environmental Management Department in Sacramento County, California, environmental health professionals view environmentalists as "critics of our work and our choices rather than supporters of our activities." He sees an understandable tendency to resentment among his colleagues:

  We believe that in the work we do, we're on a noble mission. And so we
  can't understand why folks say what we're doing is too little too late
  or not on target. We sort of feel betrayed or feel that folks aren't
  our allies who do advocacy beyond what we feel is either appropriate
  or feasible in terms of resources. We can be a little thin-skinned at
  times.

"They Get All the Attention (and Money)"

To environmental health practitioners, who consider themselves "the invisible profession," the attention environmental groups get from the media can seem lavish. They have a similar feeling about environmental protection agencies.

"We think they're solidly funded, we think we're not, and we don't like that," Knight said. Indeed, in the 30-odd years that have passed since the founding of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and state environmental protection agencies, public health funding has spiraled downward. Many environmental health departments now receive little or no general-revenue funding (Berg, 2003).

Knight conjured for JEH a picture of a health department managing to handle mandated inspections and programs with very limited funds and suddenly being confronted with an outbreak of tularemia or West Nile virus; somehow, heroically, the department scrounges the resources to protect the public.

"And yet it's someone else who gets all the glory."

"That's probably the genesis of some of the mistrust," agreed Patrick Bohan, assistant professor with the Department of Environmental Health Science at East Central University in Oklahoma, "[the feeling that] 'nobody takes me seriously.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Bridging the Great Divide: Environmental Health and the Environmental Movement
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.