Jul 13, 2022 • 44M

265th Podcast: Professor Josiah Rector Discusses His Recently Published Book, "Toxic Debt, An Environmental Justice History of Detroit" (July 12th)

Open in playerListen on);

Appears in this episode

David Introcaso, Ph.D.
Podcast interviews with health policy experts on timely subjects. The Healthcare Policy Podcast website features audio interviews with healthcare policy experts on timely topics. An online public forum routinely presenting expert healthcare policy analysis and comment is lacking. While other healthcare policy website programming exists, these typically present vested interest viewpoints or do not combine informed policy analysis with political insight or acumen. Since healthcare policy issues are typically complex, clear, reasoned, dispassionate discussion is required. These podcasts will attempt to fill this void. Among other topics this podcast will address: •Implementation of the Affordable Care Act •Other federal Medicare and state Medicaid health care issues •Federal health care regulatory oversight, moreover CMS and the FDA •Healthcare research •Private sector healthcare delivery reforms including access, reimbursement and quality issues •Public health issues including the social determinates of health Listeners are welcomed to share their program comments and suggest programming ideas. Comments made by the interviewees are strictly their own and do not represent those of their affiliated organization/s.
Episode details

Toxic Debt, An Environmental History Justice History of Detroit, just published by North Carolina University Press in its Justice, Power and Politics series, is largely a history of failure by federal, state and local government officials to regulate the auto industry’s extremely harmful environmental and consequential human health effects.  This failure is substantially explained by the replacement of the, though imperfect, New Deal order with neoliberal policies.  (Re: neoliberalism, see, for example, Gary Gerstle, “The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order,” published by Oxford University Press.)  As a result, Professor Rector documents largely post-Depression consequences experienced by the Detroit's  African American community.  Beyond low wages and ghettoization, Detroit’s African American population has disproportionately suffered adverse health consequences via industrial policies that knowingly caused unrelieved exposure to toxic air and water (think: Flint) and more recently health harms resulting from the denial of domestic water services, what Prof Rector terms, “the dehydration of Detroit.”  

This 43 minute interview begins with Professor Rector providing a brief overview of environmental harms during the Gilded Age or later 19th century.   The interview proceeds to his discussing numerous health harms African American workers suffered with increasing automation of the auto industry and the industry's non-response for half a century, the UAW, positive and negative effects of the New Deal, discusses related waste as energy policy, i.e., specifically Detroit's incinerator and its health harms imposed on African Americans, an overview of the Flint water crisis and the larger dehydration of Detroit problem  (and its health effects) and its interrelationship with financial deregulation in Detroit.              

Josiah Rector is a Professor of Urban History at the University of Houston specializing in 20th century U.S. urban environmental history, the history  of the environmental justice movement, and the history of capitalism.  He was previously a Visiting Professor of U.S. and Environmental History at Northland College from 2017-2019.  He also has extensive experience in public history.  He coordinated public history internships through the Next Gen Humanities Ph.D. Program at Wayne State University in 2017-2018 and he co-organized the Michigan Humanities Council’s Third Coast Conversations: Dialogues about Water Program for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in 2018-2019.  He has published articles in The Journal of American History and Modern American History and he is currently planning a book on the political ecology of urban environmental disasters in the United States since World War II.   He earned his Ph.D. in History from Wayne State University, and his dissertation received the Urban History Association’s Michael Katz Award for Best Dissertation in Urban History, 2016.

Information on Professor Rector's book is at: https://uncpress.org/book/9781469665764/toxic-debt/.