Benjamin J. Pauli, "Flint Fights Back: Environmental Justice and Democracy in the Flint Water Crisis" (MIT Press, 2019)

The MIT Press Podcast

09-03-2024 • 38 min

Originally published in 2019, Benjamin Pauli’s book, Flint Fights Back offers lasting insights into one of the most important drinking water-caused public health crises of American history. In this 2024 interview Pauli shares some explanations from the book but also offers his insights, in this year of the 10th anniversary of the Flint Water Crisis, on what is happening in Flint today and what, after all, we have learned from the fight for clean water in Flint, Michigan. -Patricia Houser, New Books in Environmental Studies Host. An account of the Flint water crisis shows that Flint's struggle for safe and affordable water is part of a broader struggle for democracy. When Flint, Michigan, changed its source of municipal water from Lake Huron to the Flint River, Flint residents were repeatedly assured that the water was of the highest quality. At the switchover ceremony, the mayor and other officials performed a celebratory toast, declaring “Here's to Flint!” and downing glasses of freshly treated water. But as we now know, the water coming out of residents' taps harbored a variety of contaminants, including high levels of lead. In Flint Fights Back: Environmental Justice and Democracy in the Flint Water Crisis (MIT Press, 2019), Benjamin Pauli examines the water crisis and the political activism that it inspired, arguing that Flint's struggle for safe and affordable water was part of a broader struggle for democracy. Pauli connects Flint's water activism with the ongoing movement protesting the state of Michigan's policy of replacing elected officials in financially troubled cities like Flint and Detroit with appointed “emergency managers.” Currently available for free online: “The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding from the MIT Libraries.” Patricia Houser, Ph.D., AICP, is former professor of geography and urban planning, now focused on writing and environmental research.