RIAS Professor Dario Fazzi discussed his book Smoke on the Water: Incineration at Sea and the Birth of a Transatlantic Environmental Movement (Columbia University Press, 2023) in the online Greenhouse Environmental Humanities book talk series on Monday, 13 November 2023.

Screen shot Greenhouse book talks

The US government, military, and industry once saw ocean incineration as the safest and most efficient way to dispose of hazardous chemical waste. Beginning in the late 1960s, toxic chemicals such as PCBs and other harmful industrial byproducts were taken out to sea to be destroyed in specially designed ships equipped with high-temperature combustion chambers and smokestacks. But public outcry arose after the environmental and health risks of ocean incineration were exposed, and the practice was banned in the early 1990s.

Fazzi’s book examines the anti-ocean-incineration movement that emerged on both sides of the Atlantic, arguing that it succeeded by merging local advocacy with international mobilization. He emphasizes the role played at the grassroots level by women, migrant workers, and other underrepresented groups who were at greatest risk. Environmental groups, for their part, gathered and shared evidence about the harms of at-sea incineration, building scientific consensus and influencing international debates.

Click here to watch the book talk.