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Lecture | PCNI Research Seminar

Smoke on the Water: Ocean Incineration as a Struggle for Environmental Justice

Thursday 17 March 2022
PCNI Research Seminars 2021-2022
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
2.60 (Conference Room)

Ocean incineration was a method for the disposal of hazardous chemical waste. It was initiated in the late 1960s, developed, tested, and perfected throughout the 1970s, commercialized in the 1980s, and eventually phased out from the early 1990s onward. The destruction of chemical liquid substances at sea took place in specially designed ships outfitted with high-temperature combustion chambers and high stacks. When first introduced, this technology seemed like a panacea. It heralded the safe disposal of toxic compounds such as organochlorines and PCBs, which were the ubiquitous by-products of the petrochemical, pharmaceutical, agricultural, and other modern industries. It promised to minimize private companies’ externalities, provide an alternative way to safely dispose of toxic waste, and ease environmental concerns. But it ultimately failed. Why? Smoke on the Water answers this question by arguing that the demise of ocean incineration was due to a combination of locally oriented and transnationally driven protests that emerged across the (North) Atlantic and exposed the dangerous and highly exploitative nature of such a practice. It was the coalescence of a trans-local movement, one that merged local advocacy with transnational mobilization, that uncovered the environmental risks of ocean incineration and eventually stopped it. 

Speaker: Dario Fazzi, Assistant Professor US History, Leiden University 

The meeting will be held in person, but it will be possible to attend it online too. To join the meeting online, please register by sending an email to the PCNI coordinator, Dario Fazzi at d.fazzi@hum.leidenuniv.nl. 

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