CHE Café: Science, Storytelling & A New War on Cancer

June 13, 2023
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

Slides & Resources


Webinar Questions & Answers

Order A New War on Cancer: The Unlikely Heroes Revolutionizing Prevention from Island Press.

Watch short interviews with four of the individuals profiled in Marusic's book: Bill Walsh; Nsedu Obot Witherspoon; Ami Zota; Melanie Meade.  

Find out more about the Children's Environmental Health Network and the NOW Youth Leadership Award.

Find out more about Sandra Steingraber's Living Downstream book and film, and the 2018 documentary film Unfractured.



Listen to the audio recording on The New School's soundcloud.


“If we can stop cancer before it begins, why don’t we?”

This question motivated a deep-dive inquiry into cancer prevention for award-winning journalist Kristina Marusic. Her exploration uncovered an often invisible community of creative, talented individuals who dedicate their careers to identifying and challenging environmental drivers of cancer.

Marusic shares the stories of some of these changemakers in her recently released book “A New War on Cancer: The Unlikely Heroes Revolutionizing Prevention.” As the book’s description from publisher Island Press notes:

“In searching for answers, she met remarkable doctors, scientists, and advocates who are upending our understanding of cancer and how to fight it. They recognize that we will never reduce cancer rates without ridding our lives of the chemicals that increasingly trigger this deadly disease.”

In this CHE Café conversation, Marusic shared highlights from her book including current cancer trends, and the latest scientific evidence linking cancer with exposure to chemicals found in consumer products and our food, water and air.

She was then joined by one of the heroes profiled in the book — Children’s Environmental Health Network Executive Director Nsedu Obot Witherspoon — as well as renowned biologist, author, activist, and cancer survivor, Dr. Sandra Steingraber. The group explored the power of storytelling as a tool for communicating complex scientific issues, and reaching people in ways that motivate action for change.

This CHE Café conversation was co-hosted by The New School at Commonweal and presented in partnership with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. It was moderated by CHE Director Kristin Schafer.

“The war on cancer is winnable — if we revolutionize how we fight.” - Kristina Marusic

Featured Speakers

Kristina Marusic is an author and journalist who covers issues related to environmental health and justice for Environmental Health News. A New War on Cancer: The Unlikely Heroes Revolutionizing Prevention is her first book. She's received recognition or awards from the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Institute of Health Care Management, the Group Against Smog and Pollution, and the Carnegie Science Center for reporting on environmental health and justice. Marusic is also the co-founder of the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Association of LGBTQ Journalists (a.k.a. NLGJA), and previously worked as a freelance journalist covering LGBT equality, feminism, social and environmental justice, activism, and politics with bylines at CNN, Slate, Vice, Women's Health, the Washington Post, MTV News, The Advocate, Logo TV's NewNowNext, and Bustle, among others. She believes true, well-told stories have the power to change the world for good.

Sandra Steingraber, PhD, a Senior Scientist with the Science and Environmental Health Network, is the author of a trilogy of award-winning books on environmental health: Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment (adapted as a documentary film in 2010); Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood; and Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis. Steingraber’s honors for her work as researcher and science writer include the Rachel Carson Leadership Award, the American Ethical Union’s Elliot-Black Award, and, in 2011, the Heinz Award. By donating the Heinz cash prize to the anti-fracking movement, she became, in 2012, co-founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking, a statewide coalition of hundreds of grassroots organizations that helped win a statewide ban on fracking in 2015. The 2018 documentary film Unfractured told the story of New York State’s fracking ban, featuring Steingraber as its subject. Steingraber was a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York from 2003-2021.

Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, MPH is the Executive Director for the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) and a key spokesperson for children’s vulnerabilities and the need for their protection. She holds leadership roles in many spaces, including the External Science Board for the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes at NIH, the Health/Science initiative of the Cancer Free Economy Network and the National Environmental Health Partnership Council. Witherspoon is also member of the Board for Pesticide Action Network North America and the Environmental Integrity Project, and serves on the Maryland Children’s Environmental Health Advisory Council. One of CEHN’s leadership awards, the Nsedu Obot Witherspoon (NOW) Youth Leadership Award, is named in her honor. She is also a recent recipient of the William R. Reilly Award in Environmental Leadership from the Center for Environmental Policy at American University and the Snowy Egret Award from the Eastern Queens Alliance. Witherspoon is a proud mom to four children.