Dawn Biehler is an assistant professor in UMBC’s Department of Geography and Environmental Systems.
As a biology graduate student and cancer survivor, Sandra Steingraber, who will deliver the Gender and Women’s Studies Program’s sixth annual Korenman lecture next Monday (April 29th, 4:00 p.m., AOK Library 7th floor), set out to understand the links between the landscape where she grew up and a suspected cluster of illness among family members and neighbors. Since then she has become a fierce advocate for environmental health and an eloquent translator of environmental sciences for non-experts.
Most recently, Dr. Steingraber has written about and protested the growth of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, particularly developments in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York where she lives. In March she and other activists were arrested during an act of civil disobedience in which they linked arms and stood in the way of a truck attempting to enter a gas compression facility. Steingraber calls her actions a “last resort” after authorities cut citizens out of the legal decision-making process about the expansion of fracking facilities.
Steingraber helped form the coalition New Yorkers Against Fracking, which warns of grave health and safety threats and a history of environmental violations by the company developing fracking facilities in the area. Environmental authorities appeared ready to approve the company’s plans in spite of these violations and the company’s refusal to release scientific information about the fracking site’s geology to the public.
Dr. Steingraber’s appearance at UMBC follows rapidly upon her release from jail after serving ten days for her act of civil disobedience. I believe Dr. Steingraber embodies the spirit of BreakingGround in her efforts to extend scientific knowledge about environmental health beyond experts to a broad public.
Contact the author, Dawn Biehler, at email@example.com.