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Behind The Book: April 10, 2024 - Dr. David Zierler and Prof. Paul Wennberg discuss Zierler's "The Invention of Ecocide"

Wednesday, April 10, 2024
7:30pm to 9:00pm
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Beckman Auditorium
  • Public Event

BEHIND THE BOOK presents Dr. David Zierler and Prof. Paul Wennberg in conversation about Zierler's "The Invention of Ecocide: Agent Orange, Vietnam, and the Scientists Who Changed the Way We Think About the Environment" on Wednesday, April 10, 2024, at 7:30 PM in Beckman Auditorium. As the public increasingly questioned the war in Vietnam, a group of American scientists deeply concerned about the use of Agent Orange and other herbicides started a movement to ban what they called "ecocide."

David Zierler traces this movement, starting in the 1940s, when weed killer was developed in agricultural circles and theories of counterinsurgency were studied by the military. These two trajectories converged in 1961 with Operation Ranch Hand, the joint U.S.-South Vietnamese mission to use herbicidal warfare as a means to defoliate large areas of enemy territory.

Driven by the idea that humans were altering the world's ecology for the worse, a group of scientists relentlessly challenged Pentagon assurances of safety, citing possible long-term environmental and health effects. It wasn't until 1970 that the scientists gained access to sprayed zones confirming that a major ecological disaster had occurred. Their findings convinced the U.S. government to renounce first use of herbicides in future wars and, Zierler argues, fundamentally reoriented thinking about warfare and environmental security in the next forty years.

Incorporating in-depth interviews, unique archival collections, and recently declassified national security documents, Zierler examines the movement to ban ecocide as it played out amid the rise of a global environmental consciousness and growing disillusionment with the containment policies of the cold war era.

Following their discussion, that will also explore scientists' reactions to nuclear weapon tests and their impact on the environment, the audience will be invited to submit questions to the speakers. Admission is free but reservations are required.

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For more information, please contact Caltech Ticket Office by phone at 6263954652 or by email at [email protected].

Event Series
Behind the Book