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Rosalie Bertell: Scientist, Eco-Feminist, Visionary

by Mary-Louise Engels, $

The latest installment of the Women’s Press Women Who Rock series focuses on the pioneering anti-nuclear crusader Rosalie Bertell, one of the 20th century’s leading researchers of and advocates against the perils of the nuclear fuel cycle. Bertell, who has fought off the well-funded nuclear lobby, death threats, physical attacks, and PR campaigns questioning her credibility, is a fitting subject for the series.

Author and clinical psychologist Mary-Louise Engels does an admirable job of bringing together the many facets of Bertell’s activities, summarizing a rather remarkable life’s work in a fairly short space. Like both Florence Nightingale and Rachel Carson, with whom she has often been favourably compared, Bertell’s work in the fields of women’s rights, public health, and environmental sustainability has made an unmistakable though often unacknowledged difference in the world. This title ensures that her legacy is documented.

While the writing itself is not always compelling, Bertell’s tireless search for justice offers more than enough to hold the reader’s attention. That search includes Bertell’s internationally renowned efforts to expose the often hidden victims of nuclear power and other environmental poisoning, from the mothers of jellyfish babies in the radioactive nuclear testing grounds of the South Pacific to the childhood leukemia rates around nuclear power plants in the American northeast and Ontario. Bertell’s own well-received writings, including No Immediate Danger and Planet Earth: The Latest Weapon of War, are also explored.

Engels is both informative and precise, though perhaps so precise at times that we miss out on parts of Bertell’s life and work that beg for further description. Thankfully, a list of suggested readings and websites related to the issues Bertell has tackled is included.