L'Association pour la santé environnementale du Québec / Environmental Health Association of Québec

Artistic Sources for Learning About Environmental Sensitivities

Environmental sensitivities are reactions that are triggered by factors within our environment, such as food, chemicals, radiation and biological agents. The ASEQ-EHAQ website provides careful detail on this topic, as well as information about the symptoms and causes of environmental sensitivities. If you are interested in learning more about this issue, this website would be the perfect place to start. However, if you want to approach this topic in an alternative manner, artistic sources will be of use to you.

While literature, films, paintings, and music have acted as an engaging source of information for centuries, we often put them aside in favor of scientific reports and in-depth articles. Art sources have their own advantages in educating the public that cannot be seen in the rational and formal approach of the sciences. The arts engage an audience by evoking emotions, either by presenting the topic as a fictional story in which the main character is faced with the problem at hand, or through a painting that uses colours and brush strokes that spark emotions in the viewer. 

Environmental sensitivities have been mentioned in many art forms throughout the decades, either in a subtle manner or as a main theme. This article will highlight a few different artistic platforms that would possibly interest you in your quest to learning more about this topic:

Dark Waters

Dark Waters follows Robert Bilott, an American corporate environmental defense attorney, on his lawsuit against chemical manufacturing company DuPont, that has been connected to the contamination of a town in West Virginia. The chemical that is looked upon in Dark Waters is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical that can lead to major consequences on the surrounding environment, on humans and livestock, all of which DuPont knew about and hid.

Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich is a well-known 2000 biographical film about legal researcher, Erin Brockovich, who won a lawsuit against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) who contaminated groundwater in Hinkley, California with hexavalent chromium. This film perfectly highlights the possible causes for how contaminants can become present in the environment, and the extensive consequences of one’s exposure to it. 


The Chernobyl (2019) historical drama miniseries depicts the 1986 nuclear power plant explosion in the Ukrainian Soviet Social Republic and the aftermath of the disaster. Radioactive contamination was a result of the explosion, requiring residents living in a certain proximity of the site to be evacuated. Even though the area has since been thoroughly cleaned, there has been countless fatalities related to radiation exposure throughout the years. The miniseries shows how great of an impact an accidental explosion can have on a wide terrain, as well as how the repercussions of such disasters remain ongoing for countless generations.

Art Exhibitions

Artists have taken it upon themselves to convey and address the current environmental and social issues we are facing in the form of engaging and inspiring art works such as paintings, photographs, and sculptures. There are many examples of exhibitions that hold these values, and one that has an interesting range of themes in their art pieces is a traveling exhibition created by a team of artists called Art Works for Change. They strive to engage with their audience in a manner that can only be done in the visual arts, rather than in the sciences. 

“We seek to address issues of serious concern—human rights, social justice, gender equity, environmental stewardship and sustainability—in creative, inspiring, and ultimately positive ways by engaging with audiences fully, creating experiences that are at once emotional, intellectual, and sensory.”

Art Works for Change – Our Mission

The variety of issues and topics Art Works for Change addresses can appeal to a diversified audience, thus it is worth visiting if their exhibitions show up near where you live, or you can always preview their work online by clicking the link.

Literary Sources

As the discussion of the climate crisis propels throughout the globe, it only makes sense that one would want to pick up a book to learn more about the details. More and more literature can be found covering a variety of environmental topics, such as wildlife conservation, human health impacts, and ecological degradation. It is your choice whether you undertake the task of reading fiction or non-fiction; whether you believe that a fictional novel portraying a story with the theme of environmental disaster engages you more than literature diving into either a past, current, or future environmental issue that humans will have to endure or have already endured. Below is our selection of six choices (warning: all of them are non-fiction) for you to begin with.

1. 12,000 Canaries Can’t be Wrong by John Molot, MD

Dr. Molot uses his experience and expertise in environmental medicine to explain how environmental conditions can cause one to develop certain illnesses and reactions. He later highlights methods that can aid in prevention. 

2. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Published in 1962, the story follows the usage of DDT by humans, and the adverse effects these pesticides had on the environment.

3. Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken

This 2007 New York Times bestseller sheds light on the groups and organizations within the environmental and social justice movement.

4. Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers

Our Stolen Future examines the effects endocrine disrupting chemicals have on hormonal messages required for the growth and development of humans, as well as bringing in cases where people have been affected.

5. The Closing Circle by Barry Commoner

Barry Commoner’s book examines the systems that have perpetuated the continuance of ecological destruction through deviating from natural processes and cycles.

6. Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

Merchants of Doubt illuminates how corporate connections led influential scientists to claim that some of the most scientifically-established facts were misleading, such as the science of global warming, the correlation between smoking and lung cancer, and the dangers of CFCs to the ozone.