Growing up in mosquito-laden New Orleans, one of the periodic excitements in the neighborhood was the arrival of the fogging trucks. They would travel slowly down the street, spraying a fog of DDT. The truck’s appearance on the street was the excuse for an impromptu parade – 20 or 20 of us would run for our bikes and follow the fog in the truck’s wake.
It was the late 1950s, before Rachel Carson and the environmental movement, before thalidomide, a time when America believed it itself and in technology. Only later would we come to understand that technology is a two-edged sword. It can bring great good; it can also bring unintended and unexpected consequences. The fire of Prometheus brought warmth and light; it also brought destruction. Technology is never neutral.
Jeannine Hall Gailey grew up in one of the great centers of technology in America – Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Like its sister site at Los Alamos, New Mexico, Oak Ridge was a focus of America’s atomic energy program. Gailey’s father was a professor at the University of Tennessee, and a consultant at Oak Ridge.
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Photograph by Derek Quantrell via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.