Monday, December 3, 2007

Two MacArthur Prize ("genius award") winners will be among the featured contributors to a "Toxic Talk" conference that Jim Throgmorton has been organizing. The conference will take place on Friday and Saturday (November 2-3). Wilma Subra is a MacArthur prize-winning chemist who works with minority communities that believe they have been unjustly exposed to hazardous chemicals. Naomi Wallace is a MacArthur prize-winning playwright whose new play "The Hard Weather Boating Party" will be given a staged reading by actors in the University of Iowa's Theater Department.

In addition to Subra and Wallace's play, the conference will feature presentations by Julian Agyeman, a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University and author of Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Social Justice; Arnita Gadson, environmental justice coordinator for the West Jefferson County Community Task Force in Louisville, Kentucky; Harrell Hurst a professor of toxicology and pharmacology at the University of Louisville; six University of Iowa professors from diverse disciplines; and the screening of a new documentary film, "Libby, Montana," followed by a discussion with a co-director of the film, Drury Dunn Carr. The conference is sponsored by the Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry (POROI), the Graduate College and other UI divisions. All presentations are free and open to the public.

"We want to focus on the discourse surrounding environmental justice and sustainability - basically, the way diverse people think and talk about these topics," said Jim Throgmorton, a UI professor of urban and regional planning and organizer of the conference. "A minority community that's exposed to toxic chemicals would talk about it in terms of justice, whereas a scientist would talk about it in terms of, for example, toxicology. We're trying to connect people with these different viewpoints in a discussion that increases public understanding about what's at stake and facilitates future conversations about solutions."

Two of the presentations in the conference will use the "Rubbertown" neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky, as an illustrative case of environmental injustice. "Rubbertown" is a 60-year-old chemical complex on the city' southwest side. Nearby residents have been seeking change because they believe the plants' pollution has harmed their health for decades.

More details about the conference and the symposium of which it is a part can be found online at


Friday, Nov. 2

-- Exploring the Complexities of Environmental Justice and Sustainability Part 1: "The Legacy of the Manhattan Project and Cold War in Iowa," Laurence J. Fuortes, UI; "Mapping the Geography of Cancer," Gerard Rushton, UI; "Power Disparities in Stakeholders' Ability to Frame Environmental Justice Issues in the News," Julie Andsager, UI, 2:30-4 p.m., Iowa City Public Library, Room A

-- Exploring the Complexities of Environmental Justice and Sustainability Part 2: "Air Quality Regulation in Delhi, India: Environmental Justice or Injustice?" Naresh Kumar, UI; "Economic Growth Versus the Environment in Mexico," Craig Just, UI; "Intersections: Discourses of Social and Environmental Justice on Black Websites," André Brock, UI, 4:15-5:45 p.m., Iowa City Public Library, Room A

-- Staged reading of "The Hard Weather Boating Party," a new play by MacArthur Fellow Naomi Wallace. Set in "Rubbertown, U.S.A., the play involves characters who've been harmed by industrial chemicals, 7:30-9 p.m., UI Theatre Building

Saturday, Nov. 3

-- "Organizing a Community to Protect its Health," Arnita Gadson, West Jefferson County Community Task Force, and University of Louisville/Kentucky Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development, 9:15-10:15 a.m., W151 Pappajohn Building

-- "Industrial Chemicals and Public Health Risks in Louisville," Harrell Hurst, University of Louisville, 10:30-11:30 a.m., W151 Pappajohn Building

-- "Educating and Empowering Environmental Justice Communities in Rubbertown," Wilma Subra, President of The Subra Company, 1-2:15 p.m., W151 Pappajohn Building

-- "Just Sustainability," Julian Agyeman, Tufts University, 2:30-3:45 p.m., W151 Pappajohn Building. The talk will be followed by "A Collective Conversation: Making Sense of Toxic Talk."

-- Screening of the documentary "Libby, Montana," followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, 5-7 p.m., Becker Communication Studies Building

A number of contributors and co-sponsors helped make the "Toxic Talk" conference possible: the departments of communication studies, geography, and theatre arts, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and the intermedia area of the School of Art and Art History, all part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the Program in Urban and Regional Planning, the School of Library and Information Science, the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, the Institute for Cinema and Culture, International Programs, the Institute of Inequality Studies, the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation to participate in this program, please contact POROI at 319-335-2753.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jim Throgmorton, Urban and Regional Planning, 319-335-0037,