History of Science 54 (4):443-459 (2016)

Hugh Gorman
Stanford University
Over the last half century, a multijurisdictional, multiscale system of governance has emerged to address concerns associated with toxic chemicals that have the capacity to bioaccumulate in organisms and biomagnify in food chains, leading to fish consumption advisories. Components of this system of governance include international conventions, laws enacted by nation states and their subjurisdictions, and efforts to adaptively manage regional ecosystems. Given that many of these compounds – including mercury, industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls, and pesticides such as toxaphene – circulate throughout the globe through cycles of deposition and reemission, regional efforts to eliminate the need for fish consumption advisories cannot be successful without efforts to reduce emissions everywhere in the world. This paper argues that the scientific community, by monitoring the concentrations of these compounds in the atmosphere and by modeling their fate and transport, play an important role in connecting the various jurisdictional scales of governance. In addition, the monitoring networks that this community of scientists has established can be visualized as a technology of governance essential in an era in which societies have the capacity to produce and release such chemicals on an industrial scale.
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DOI 10.1177/0073275316681804
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