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Community Read: What the Eyes Don't See by Mona Hanna-Attisha

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About the Panelists

John Bergendahl, PhD

Associate Professor

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

John Bergendahl is an associate professor in the Department of Civil Environmental Engineering at WPI. John has six years’ experience as a practicing engineer in industry, and holds a BS in mechanical engineering, an MS in environmental engineering, and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Connecticut. He conducted postdoctoral research in the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Program at the University of Texas in Austin. His current research interests focus on increasing our knowledge of physical and chemical processes for enabling sustainable design of engineered systems.

Visit Dr. Bergendahl's Faculty Page at WPI for more information.

James Brooks

Director, Housing Development and Health Homes

Executive Office of Economic Development - Housing Development Division

City of Worcester

James Brooks serves as the City of Worcester’s Director of Housing Development and Healthy Homes who manages the city’s housing stock development and rehabilitation efforts. He is responsible for over 23 million dollars in State and Federal Grants through HUD and other agencies for the development, rehabilitation and remediation of residential health, life safety and indoor environmental conditions of the city’s homes.   Mr. Brooks has overseen the develop, rehabilitation and preservation projects to thousands of units in the City.
Mr. Brooks’ licenses and certifications include Massachusetts Construction Supervisor, Massachusetts Deleading Supervisor, Massachusetts licensed Lead Inspector, NEHA certified Healthy Homes Specialist, Mold Remediation Supervisor, and Residential Radon Measurement Professional .He is also a local active Real Estate Broker.
Mr. Brooks is a professional in the field of Healthy Housing and housing’s effect on healthcare costs.  He serves as Subject Matter Expert in Healthy Homes for the National Environmental Health Association, national trainer for HUD Healthy Housing programs, serves on the Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership’s Healthy Housing Committee and the Healthy Housing representative for Worcester’s Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund and has presented to local, state and federal HUD and EPA professionals on the subject of Healthy Housing.  Mr. Brooks sits on the boards of several organizations including Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership, UMASS Memorial Hospital’s Anchor Mission Investment Committee and Worcester Housing Supply and Stabilization Working Group.

Eliza Lawrence

School Gardens Coordinator

Regional Environmental Council (REC), Worcester MA

Eliza joined the Regional Environmental Council (REC) located in Worcester, MA in 2015 as a Youth Mentor with the youth urban agriculture and employment program, YouthGROW. In 2017, she began working for the REC's School Gardens program, a program that supports local schools with the infrastructure, tools and education to grow and maintain raised bed gardens on school property, which include testing the sites for lead and other contaminants prior to garden construction. Under her tenure, the School Gardens network has grown to include 25 school partners and directly engage over 1,500 Worcester Public School students every year. Her vision is to have flourishing gardens complete with pollinator plants, perennial herb gardens and fruit trees at every school in Worcester and to grow education around what can and cannot be planted safely in urban soils and how to safeguard growing to limit exposure to lead and other contaminants.

Submit a Question for the Panelists

Discussion Questions

  • Dr. Mona explains that resilience is not a trait you are born with; rather, resilience is learned. She writes, "Just as a child can learn to be resilient, so can a family, a neighborhood, a community, a city. And so can a country" (p.14). What challenges might a community like Flint or Worcester face in trying to learn resilience?
  • In the book, Dr. Mona initially tells Grace not to use bottled water to make formula for her infant daughter, Nakala. Why did Dr. Mona ignore the news about the contamination of Flint Water? How does the media impact our opinions on what is safe and unsafe?
  • Had you heard about the water crisis in Washington, D.C., prior to reading this book? Why did the government and local agencies demand proof of impact before changes were made to the water delivery system there?
  • Were there any parts of this book that made you think of struggles happening in your own community?
  • Dr. Mona describes Flint as being in a “man-made state of emergency for forty years” (p. 128), with very high poverty rates, numerous abandoned homes, and little incoming tax 3 revenue. How did practices like racist employment policies, housing segregation, and blockbusting disproportionately affect black families? How did government policies and deindustrialization play roles in the water crisis in Flint?
  • What is the difference between treatment of individual health and treatment of population health? How can lead exposure have drastic impacts at the population level? How does lead exposure disproportionally affect black people? Do you think it is ethical to use children as detectors of environmental contamination?