Home > What Could Possibly Go Right? Interview Series > Episode 9: Carolyn Raffensperger: The Intersectionality of Racism

July 16, 2020

For today’s “What Could Possibly Go Right?” Carolyn Raffensperger brings her perspective as an environmental lawyer and Executive Director of the Science and Environmental Health. She shares these ideas:

  • The impact of applying the “precautionary principle” towards preventing suffering; this idea of taking positive action in the face of scientific uncertainty and the likelihood of harm.
  • That there is an opportunity to rethink what government is for; working to avoid preventable suffering by promoting the well-being of its people instead of over-emphasizing economic growth.
  • That the long-time work of activists has provided a bank of solutions, and that the focus now should be in cross-conversation and efforts across sectors. 
  • That the overarching frame of racism has shifted our picture of other issues and systems, such as economics, capitalism, the environment and public health.

About Carolyn Raffensperger

Carolyn is executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. In 1982 she left a  career as an archaeologist in the desert Southwest to join the environmental movement. She first worked for the Sierra Club where she addressed an array of environmental issues, including forest management, river protection, pesticide pollutants, and disposal of radioactive waste. She began working for SEHN in December 1994. As an environmental lawyer she specializes in the fundamental changes in law and policy necessary for the protection and restoration of public health and the environment.

Carolyn is co-editor of Precautionary Tools for Reshaping Environmental Policy published by M.I.T. Press (2006) and Protecting Public Health and the Environment: Implementing the Precautionary Principle, published by Island Press (1999). Together, these volumes are the most comprehensive exploration to date of the history, theory, and implementation of the precautionary principle. Carolyn coined the term “ecological medicine” to encompass the broad notions that both health and healing are entwined with the natural world. She has served on editorial review boards for several environmental and sustainable agriculture journals, and on USEPA and National Research Council committees. She wrote a bimonthly column for the Environmental Law Institute’s journal Environmental Forum from 1999 until 2008.

Carolyn has been featured in Gourmet magazine, the Utne Reader, Yes! Magazine, the Sun, Whole Earth, and Scientific American. Along with leading workshops and giving frequent lectures on the Precautionary Principle, Carolyn is at the forefront of developing new models for government that depend on these larger ideas of precaution and ecological integrity. The new models include guardianship for future generations, a vision for the courts of the 21st century and the public trust doctrine.

Science and Environmental Health Network


Download the transcript here.