Brown Bag Lecture: “Predicting Risk and Hope: Forming Community through Environmental Risk Research”

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Date: November 18, 2014
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Britt Dahlberg

Residents, health agency staff, township planners, university researchers, and landscape architects are currently meeting in Ambler, Pennsylvania, to discuss a central piece of land: a 32-acre park that served as a dump site for asbestos waste during manufacturing of shingles, pipes, and other products in the 1880s to 1970s. Now fenced off and the focus of an EPA Superfund Risk Assessment since 2009, investigations are still under way to determine if the waste site poses a hazard to human health in the present or future, and thus which future reuses of the land could be safely supported by this land. These days, research projects require “community involvement,” and a community group has been formed to meet bimonthly with the EPA to discuss priorities and decide where to place monitors and how to interpret data. In the process the area has gathered attention from a wide range of people each with different ways of observing and making sense of the land around them and of deciding what kind of place this is and could be.

This Brown Bag Lecture will discuss the ways people started to notice the landscape and neighborhoods differently in the context of environmental risk assessment and how EPA staff went about identifying “the community” of the toxic site. The talk will demonstrate the impact of research lenses and practices on shifting social boundaries in the neighborhood and terms of inclusion in research, planning, and future use of public spaces. In so doing, we will explore how different ways of inferring risk or possibilities for the future shift people’s experiences of place and social belonging during postindustrial redevelopment.

Britt Dahlberg is a Dissertation Fellow at CHF and a PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

For more information, please call 215.873.8289 or e-mail

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