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Book and Media Reviews
May 9, 2007

Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Fishbein Fellow.

JAMA. 2007;297(18):2031-2035. doi:10.1001/jama.297.18.2034

This book surveys the history of environment and health in California, more particularly in the Central Valley. It examines regional ideas about the dependence of illness on air, water, and geography. Linda Nash emphasizes the extent to which 19th-century physicians held an ecological perspective. She argues that this wisdom was largely lost around 1900 with the rise of germ theory but that it reemerged after 1960 in critiques about the use of pesticides. Nash's argument entails too much environmentalist romanticism, and its sweeping indictments against “reductionism” and “capitalism” are not convincing. The book, however, does make a significant contribution to the history of environmental quality.