Join Us!

 
Like this book? Digg it!


Book Data

ISBN: 9781931498883
Year Added to Catalog: 2005
Book Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 6 x 9, 391 pages
Book Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Old ISBN: 1931498881
Release Date: September 1, 2005
Web Product ID: 84

Also By This Author


An Unreasonable Woman

A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas

by Diane Wilson

Foreword by Kenny Ausubel

Interviews

The BP Oil Spill: Time To Get Unreasonable

Yes! Magazine
Brook Jarvis
July 23, 2010


For decades, Diane Wilson—a fourth-generation shrimper from Seadrift, Texas, a town roughly in the center of Texas’ Gulf coast—has been fighting to clean up the messes of the oil and petrochemical industries. First it was the chemicals pumped into a local bay by a plastics factory, then the Dow Chemical Company’s refusal to compensate the victims of the Bhopal disaster, then the Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq in what she believes was a war for oil.

Many protests and hunger strikes later, that plastics factory signed a zero discharge agreement. The anti-war group that Wilson helped found, Code Pink, has become a prominent national voice for peace. So it’s no wonder that Wilson is someone who believes in the power of protest—or that, when millions of gallons of oil started gushing into the waters she’d trolled since childhood, her anger turned into action.

That action has made national headlines and gotten Wilson dragged out of more than one Congressional hearing. On August 20, she’ll find out if it will land her in jail for two years. But for Wilson, who’s fond of saying that she’s “nobody particular,” there’s nothing exceptional or complicated about what she’s doing. “There comes a time,” she wrote, “when the home needs protecting and the line needs drawing and anybody that dares cross it acts at their own peril.”

Brooke Jarvis: People around the world have been horrified by this catastrophe. What has it been like for you and your neighbors in Seadrift?

Diane Wilson: It was almost like seeing your own death. You cannot imagine it, but it appears to be happening. I think many people thought they really might see the end of the whole Gulf, just filling up like a river of oil, just wiping out everything. People are very, very upset about it. They don’t know what to do, because what is there to do? They can't leave. Down here you are the 4th, 5th generation fishing or shrimping the same waters. You have a sense of place, and your identity is the place. I've been down here through I can't tell you how many hurricanes, and people don't leave even when they know a storm’s coming.

Brooke: The big news this week is the cap on the BP oil pipe. When the oil spill is finally stopped, are you worried that it will be forgotten—that there will be a feeling that the problem is solved and we can return to business as usual?

Diane: I worry a lot about that. I've been involved in environmental struggles on the Gulf Coast for 20 years, and I’ve seen how quickly we can forget. I was involved in the Bhopal struggle, which is basically about the problem of forgetting—after 25 years and 20,000 deaths, it’s not solved but it’s not in the news, either. And in Alaska, it’s been 20 years since the Exxon Valdez, and they only ever recovered 8 percent of the oil


I know how fickle media is. I've been trying to get stories out about oil for 20 years. I've talked with agencies, I've talked with politicians, and wouldn’t get any response. I started to feel like maybe there was something the matter with me, maybe what I was horrified about wasn't so awful, so at times I really questioned myself. Then when we had this awful spill, suddenly almost those very same agencies and people were acting like it horrified them and they were immediately going to take action.

I know how the spotlight will change how people react, and I know how easily it goes away. We get bored very easily. I’m afraid that with even the littlest excuse, we will want to move on—people feel relieved to move away from this unpleasantness and from thinking about the big changes we need in this country. A lot of people would rather it just go away.

Brooke: What actions have you taken since the spill began, to keep the spotlight on?

Diane: People have a shield that protects them from bad news. It just kind of slides off, so you have to be very creative to break through. So one of our actions was inspired by women in Nigeria, who protested pollution from oil companies by taking off their clothes. I was amazed how much they accomplished nonviolently by pushing the comfort zone. So we went to BP’s control center in Houston, nude, and demanded “the naked truth” about oil. A lot of people said, "Oh no, you can't do something like that in Houston. It’s the Bible Belt; the media will not come.” But they did, and the protest got a lot of press. We also had people come dressed as fishermen, as mermaids, as BP workers. A fisherman in Sargent, Texas brought probably 100 pounds of dead fish and a pile of shrimp nets. We poured fake oil over everybody.

Later I decided to go to Washington, D.C., because that’s where the hearings were happening.  I got some Karo syrup, the syrup they make pecan pies with in Texas, and security let me in with this half a gallon of goo labeled “oil” on the side. I waited for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, from Alaska, to start talking. She should know the cost of an oil spill, from the Exxon Valdez; she should know the value of fishermen and wilderness. Yet she was the senator who was blocking the vote to lift the liability cap for BP. So I just stood up and started yelling. I said that I was from the Gulf and we are sick and tired of being dumped on. I poured oil all over myself. At one point they were going to charge me for assault for getting syrup on the guard. They said it was the messiest protest they had ever had.

Then I heard that [BP CEO] Tony Hayward was going to testify. By this time I had Capitol cops following me everywhere, asking to see what was in my bag. I got to the Capitol at 10 o’clock the night before, and waited all night. They only let five people in—they were very, very nervous about anything happening. They wouldn’t let in any signs or anything that looked like it might be used in a demonstration, but they didn’t find the tube of paint I had in my pocket. When no one was looking I smeared it on my hands and face, and then I started yelling at Tony—I kept calling him Tony—that he ought to go to jail.

So I was arrested in one week on two different charges of unlawful conduct and resisting arrest. I’ve had to go to court twice already. At this point I'm probably looking at about 2 years.

Brooke: If you end up going to jail, will it be worth it?

Diane: Oh, yes. I've been to jail before. I did an action regarding Bhopal: I scaled a chemical tower and breached security and trespassed—I got 180 days in jail.

With these BP actions I had no idea what I would accomplish, but I felt I had to do something. I felt so much anger and rage about what was going on, especially because they were lying about it. Somehow Tony Hayward represented everything that I felt was being killed out there on the bay. Everybody calls this an accident, but it was inevitable—you take that kind of risk, and it will eventually come down to this.

Brooke: Realistically, what can we change by getting mad?
At some time in our lives, we will come across some information that just hits us, and what we do with that bit of information will determine the rest of our lives.

Diane: We can’t just be mad about this one spill. It’s part of a bigger problem, so we have to demand that there be bigger changes. That push is going to have to come from the people, from the grassroots.

Because I've been doing this for so long, I know that it sometimes takes very drastic and awful situations to change things. These times are critical windows when we can get things done—the only time when agencies and politicians and people are alarmed enough that we can move things.

Take offshore drilling. If all we have is a temporary ban, companies will be just waiting to start again when the six months are up. If that happens, what on Earth will we have learned from this monstrous problem?

We also have to make a decision about the type of energy we are using. It's not whether we are going to move away from oil, because we eventually will, but whether we’ll do it when we can make a smooth transition or when we’re forced to, which will be chaos. We don’t have the luxury of time.

And we have to do something about the power of corporations. They make their money using the resources of the whole planet, but they don’t get punished when they put it at risk. I think that people need to go to jail for this. We have to send a very clear message that you cannot take these kinds of risks without consequences.

We also have to change how we regulate corporations. Right now lots of them only self-report, and agencies don’t have budgets to check their reports or for enforcement.

Brooke: You’ve also been pushing to cap BP’s liability. Why is that so important?

Diane: It's flat out crazy, when you are making $90 million dollars a day, to say that $75 million is the most you should be made to pay in liability. Lisa Murkowski said we need that low limit because otherwise smaller, mom-and-pop oil companies couldn’t drill in the Gulf. What mom-and-pop oil companies? She should be worried about mom-and-pop shrimpers.

If you are not forced to pay big time for your mistakes then you don't value them. It gives the idea that you can take all kinds of chances and all kinds of shortcuts. I guarantee you that this planet cannot afford it. This is a finite planet and we are acting like its infinite.

Diane Wilson, portrait by Robert ShetterlyDiane Wilson's portrait, part of the series Americans Who Tell the Truth.

Brooke: What would you say to people who are upset about the spill but don’t know what to do about it?

Diane: We are going to have to learn to not be so well behaved. We are going to have to move from our hearts. I have always believed that at some time in our lives, we will come across some information that just hits us, and what we do with that bit of information will determine the rest of our lives.

There are no excuses. If you look at the social changes that have been made in this country and all around the world, it is the people who seemed least able to make changes who did. We just forget that we have that kind of potential.

Brooke JarvisBrooke Jarvis interviewed Diane Wilson for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Brooke is YES! Magazine's web editor.


Diane Wilson Talks about Battling BP, Overcoming Fear, and the Importance of Throwing a Wall-Eyed Fit

The Texas Observer
Robert Leleux
July 23, 2010

Hello Gang!

This afternoon, my friend Ello Black and I had a rare treat.  We got the chance to talk to Diane Wilson--activist and writer extraordinaire.  I don't know if y'all remember, but I wrote about the divine Diane last month, when she was busy throwing, in her words, "a wall-eyed fit" about the BP oil spill.  (Amen, sister.)

For those of you who don't recall, Diane is a fourth-generation shrimper from a tiny town in South Texas, called Seadrift.  She was radicalized, in the late 80s, after discovering that Seadrift had been ranked the most polluted town in the nation--with staggeringly high incidences of autism and various forms of cancer.  Her activism has brought her jail sentences and ostracism.  But it's also, so wonderfully, given her a kind of peace and courage and clarity that I've rarely witnessed.  And she's a GREAT writer.  Her memoir, "An Unreasonable Woman," is really one of the most marvelous books I've ever read.  It's a "Norma Rae" for Texas.  And it's also, I'd imagine, a book that BP DOES NOT want you to read.  So that's a good reason to go ahead and order it, right there.

Here's a link for it:
http://www.amazon.com/Unreasonable-Woman-Shrimpers-Politicos-Polluters/dp/1933392274/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1279926737&sr=1-1

One of the reasons we were talking to Diane today is because Ello is making an animated documentary about the BP spill, called "One Fish, Two Fish, Oil Fish," which is going to explain what's actually going on in the Gulf to those of us who're still a tad confused by the whole mess of it.  Ello's delightful tag line is: "Changing the world, one cartoon at a time."  Isn't that adorable?

You can facebook "fan" Ello's documentary right here:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Fish-Two-Fish-Oil-Fish/132417933459005?ref=ts

Anyway, Ello wanted to ask for Diane's take on the public health ramifications of the oil spill.  That's mainly something I'll let Ello tell you about, although I will share the following harrowing tidbit.  Diane said that many medical conditions that the oil spill could trigger, like cancer, for instance, won't effect folks immediately.  According to her, it doesn't take days or weeks for diseases like that to become apparent, it takes months or even years--and healthcare relief funds provided in the wake of disasters tend to primarily be given to those folks whose suffering is most immediate.  So, Diane worries that the longer it takes you to get sick from this oil spill, the less money there'll be to help you.
Yikes!

So, that's what Ello wanted to talk to Diane about.  But the reason I wanted to talk to her was to find out what folks CAN DO to change what's going on in the Gulf.  And she pointed me towards another fabulous facebook page, all about a protest event in Washington DC that's going to take place over Labor Day weekend, called "Spill into Washington."

You can find that page, right here:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=128192210550148&v=info&ref=ts

Also, you can find info about CODEPINK's boycott of BP, right here:
http://www.codepink4peace.org/section.php?id=427

And then, of course, I had to ask Diane about where she gets her inspiration, and how she KEEPS GOING!  And she said the most moving, sensational things.  She paraphrased Eleanor Roosevelt, and said, "Whoever you are, you're the person; wherever you are, that's the place; whatever time it is, that's the time to take action."  (Don't you just LOVE that?)  She also said that, in her twenty-one years of
activism, she's never felt more strongly that we are at a crossroads.  That the level of pollution we're facing threatens to change the way we all live, unless we take action right now.

"We the people have to create change," she said.  "And the funny thing is that the kind of change I'm calling for is already in the law books.  I just want the government to enforce the Clean Air Act.  I just want corporations to be forced to abide by the law.  Isn't it strange that once you start demanding for the government to enforce the law, you get called a 'radical?'  You get called a 'crazy woman?'"

"Do you ever feel like throwing in the towel?" I asked.

"If I stopped," she said, "I'd stop the best part of myself.  This is a way of being for me.  People talk about 'the planet' or 'nature' like it's something 'out there,' but it's not.  The planet is you.  Nature is you.  Whatever you do to the planet, you're doing to yourself.  If you poison nature, you are poisoning yourself.  When America looks at the BP spill, it's looking in the mirror.  Because that's what we're doing in America right now.  That's what our behavior, our complacency looks like."

"Do you ever get afraid?" I asked.

"Not anymore," she said.  "People have the wrong idea about fear.  People experience fear, and they back off.  But when people feel fear, they should go forward.  Being afraid means you're pushing yourself.  I don't get afraid anymore, because I've faced death and jail and getting hurt, and I learned to keep going forward.  The government and big corporations want us to be afraid in order to keep us from acting.
They've learned to play our fear like a fiddle.  But we've got to learn to keep going, to pay attention to our dreams, and follow our hearts."

And Diane said that there are some really fine folks working in the EPA now--responsive, responsible people--for the first time since she started dealing with the EPA.  But she also emphasized the importance of throwing wall-eyed fits.  "You've got to get people to pay attention to what's happening," she said.  "After you get people to look at what's going on, after you get the story out, then the EPA starts acting.  Then OSHA comes around.  But you've got to get folks to pay attention, before anything can change."

Couldn't you all just swoon with inspiration?  But wait, there's more!  Here's a clip from a documentary about Diane, called "Texas Gold."


The University of Texas at Austin

ShelfLife@Texas

Monday, June 22, 2009

Spotlight on Dobie Paisano Fellow Diane Wilson

Activist, fisherwoman, mother… Diane Wilson has been called by many names, but the one she was always reluctant to give herself was author. In fact, her 93-year old mother once told her that if she ever actually got a book published, she would stand on her head in the middle of traffic.

Two highly acclaimed books later, the self-taught writer can add another moniker to her list…Paisano Fellow. The Dobie Paisano Fellowship, sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Institute of Letters supports writers while they live and work at the Paisano Ranch – J. Frank Dobie’s 254-acre retreat just outside of Austin.

“My feet have still not touched the ground,” says Wilson of her reaction to the recent announcement of her award. Born and raised in Seadrift, Texas, she was thrilled with the validation she felt as a writer with her selection as the Paisano Fellow starting in June, 2010.

Author of “An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas” and “Holy Roller: Growing Up in the Church of Knock Down Drag Out; or How I Quit Loving a Blue Eyed Jesus,” Wilson has received critical acclaim from the likes of Rick Bass, Molly Ivans and Garrison Keillor. “Holy Roller” was recently awarded an honorable mention by the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

Wilson plans to spend her time at the Paisano Ranch writing about a topic close to her heart – fishermen and the sea. She is particularly looking forward to the solitude and time to reflect and to write during her stay. We can look forward to the results.

And by the way, despite the fact that Wilson is currently working on her third book, she has yet to collect on that promise from her mother.


An Unreasonable Woman: An interview with Diane Wilson

Truth Out
By Kelpie Wilson
March 28, 2006

Diane Wilson is the author of An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas (Chelsea Green, 2005). It is a remarkable book, telling the story of Wilson's life as female shrimp boat captain and an environmental activist fighting devastating toxic pollution from chemical and plastics manufacturers on the Texas Gulf Coast.

But I have to confess, when the book was first recommended to me, I hesitated to read it. As an environmental activist, I have my own personal history of endless hours of research, boring meetings, scary confrontations, nasty intimidation and the infighting that goes along with these struggles, and I wasn't sure that I wanted to hear all the gritty details of someone else's pains and triumphs. Lois Gibbs, the courageous activist mother of Love Canal, said the same thing in her review of An Unreasonable Woman in Orion Magazine. But like Gibbs, I was hooked after the first page. For one thing, the Texas Gulf Coast seems to be unlike any other place on the planet.

Molly Ivins and others have called An Unreasonable Woman a masterpiece of American literature, and I agree. First, there is the poetry of Wilson's language. I can only compare her to fiction writers like Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx. She wraps her tender descriptions of her beloved Lavaca Bay around poignant inner reflections, while rendering the home-grown dialogue and emotionally tense social ecology of her community with complete authenticity.

Read the interview.

 


Environmental Fugitives--Diane Wilson and Warren Anderson

Corporate Watchdog Media
November 15, 2005

Diane Wilson and Warren Anderson are both fugitives. Fisherwoman Diane Wilson has been charged with criminal trespass for hanging a banner at a Dow Chemical/Union Carbide facility that said "Dow - Responsible for Bhopal". She received a six month jail sentence for that, which she is due to serve.

Warren Anderson was the CEO of Union Carbide back in 1984 when the Carbide plant in India spewed toxic gases into the surrounding community and killed more than 20,000 people. He visited Bhopal shortly after the incident, and agreed to return for any legal proceedings. After leaving, he was charged, along with Union Carbide, with manslaughter for those thousands of deaths. However, Anderson and Carbide have refused to return to India to face trial. In the eyes of the Indian courts, they are fugitives from the law.

Listen to an audio log of fugitive Diane Wilson's quest to find fugitive Warren Anderson and "talk some sense into him."

 


Texan Environmental Activist Diane Wilson: Why I Refuse to go Jail

Democracy Now with Amy Goodman
October 11, 2005

Listen to Amy Goodman's interview with Diane Wilson. A transcript of the interview is also available.

 


The Erin Brockovich of Shrimp

Beyone Organics Radio
Ocotober 5, 2005

Join host Jerry Kay, publisher of the Environmental News Network, as we hear all about Diane Wilson's new book: An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas. Download available at Beyond Organics.

 


Diane Wilson on Writer's Voice

October 1, 2005

Writer's Voice hosts Francesca Rheannon and Daisy Mathias talk with Diane Wilson, author of An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas. Download the mp3 from the Writer's Voice web site.


 

Diane Rehm interviews Diane Wilson

The Diane Rehm Show
September 28, 2005

A shrimper turned activist turned environmentalist tells the story of how she took on the giant corporations polluting the beloved Texas Gulf Coast bay where she and her family lived. Download the interview at the Diane Rehm Show web site.

 


Changing the Conversation: Diane Wilson

A podcast from Bioneers

Diane Wilson proved that one "ordinary" woman could force a giant chemical company to change its destructive ways. In this exclusive podcast, Kristin Rothballer of Bioneers talks with Ms. Wilson about how one "unreasonable woman" can change the world.

 


Life is Not a Spectator Sport

Satya
November 2002

Diane Wilson is a force to be reckoned with, something some of the world’s worst industrial polluters have learned. A fourth-generation shrimper, Diane spent her life in Seadrift, Texas, fishing off the Gulf Coast, that is, until she noticed something. The surrounding area is informally known as the “cancer capital of the world” because of the number of chemical plants that dumped toxic waste into the water, which was killing the fish and making people sick.

After calling meetings, writing letters, etc., Diane realized that she was getting nowhere. The influence of Big Business over politicians was too great. So this small-town mother of five went on a hunger strike, just like that. Two more strikes went unnoticed, so Diane decided to sink her boat on top of one of the pipes dumping record amounts of PVCs into the bay, and demanded a stop to it. That was the beginning of a life of activism and civil disobedience.

Recently, Diane jumped the fence of a Union Carbide plant in her hometown, scaled a tower and chained herself to it for eight hours. She was raising awareness about the victims of the Union Carbide chemical plant explosion in Bhopal, India, which instantly killed between 15,000 and 20,000 people. Hundreds of thousands still suffer serious health problems and have seen no justice—no corporate official was ever held accountable. Dow Chemical recently purchased Union Carbide, yet refuses to clean up the highly toxic mess or stop the poison that still leaks from the plant. Last month, the Indian courts upheld charges of culpable homicide against Union Carbide and then-CEO Warren Anderson, and charges were also brought against Dow Chemical.

Diane also raised eyebrows when she and Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange disrupted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s testimony to Congress and challenged his support for war against Iraq. Catherine Clyne recently spoke with Diane Wilson about her hell-raising.

For those unfamiliar with your story, what would you start off with?
That I’m a fisherman, from four generations of shrimpers in one community, and I think that has a lot to say about what kind of activist I am. There’s all kinds of activists or environmentalists or whatever you want to call them—and I take a great deal of pride in saying I’m a grassroots activist. It’s like from the land and the sea and the people that I live among; it’s an organic thing, because it’s not only your livelihood, it’s your home, it’s your community. I’ve got four generations in one town, so it’s the future as I can imagine it. And that’s why I battle here.

Read the rest of the interview


An UnReasonable Woman for the Earth - An Interview with Diane Wilson

From Gaian Voices
November 2002

Diane Wilson is an inspiring powerhouse of a woman. A mother of five and fourth generation shrimper, Diane grew up in Seadrift, Texas, a small fishing town on San Antonio Bay in Calhoun County — which has the dubious distinction of being the number one county in the nation for toxic disposal. Diane has been battling huge chemical corporations — Union Carbide/Dow, Aloca, BP Chemical, Dupont, Formosa Plastics, Carbon Graphite — since 1989, the first year corporations were required by law to report toxic emissions. As a fisher, she knew something was terribly wrong before 1989 but no information was available. Once she found out what was going on, she became determined to change things. She has been on several hunger strikes, some over 30 days, and attempted to sink her own 42 foot shrimp boat on top of an illegal discharge. In August 2002, Diane climbed a 90 foot tower inside a Dow/Union Carbide facility in Seadrift and unfurled a banner that read: “Dow/Union Carbide Responsible for Bhopal” to protest the company’s refusal to take responsibility for the disaster in Bhopal, India. (See update). In 1995, she won “zero discharge” agreements with Alcoa Aluminum and Formosa Plastics, one of the world’s largest producers of PVC. She is the inspiration behind UnReasonable Women for the Earth, founded in 2002, and co-founded Code Pink in response to the war in Iraq. She has won numerous environmental awards and been featured on 48 Hours and Lifetime TV. A children’s book, Nobody Particular by Molly Bangs, tells her story.

I spoke with Diane shortly before Thanksgiving as she prepared to go to jail in Austin for disrupting the Texas legislature as they passed their resolution supporting George Bush and the war in Iraq. (She hung a banner and screamed “No more killing!” as the police dragged her out.) Nothing deters Diane’s invincible spirit and commitment. Not jail (she was jailed six times in 2002 and has two trials coming up in January 2004), not risk to herself, and certainly not threats from the powers-that-be.

Talking with Diane was a real treat. She’s easy to talk to and has a great sense of humor. I felt as though we were close friends sitting on the back porch, drinking tea, sharing our concerns and our passion for the Earth. Our conversation was punctuated with laughter — and more than a few cackles. As she would put it, Diane is on our side. And I, for one, am extremely grateful.

GV: You started taking action in 1989. At around that time, until 1992 or so, I was researching what I called “the worst corporate destroyers of the Earth”. How had I not heard of you?

DW: Well, for a long time it was just a Texas thing. And especially around here, they just thought I was a nut. Now they say I’m a persistent nut. (Laughs)

GV: Well there has to be something a little off in order to do what you’ve been doing. (Both of us laugh). No, really, because most people can’t imagine it.

DW: I’m a firm believer in commitment. I think most folks just don’t understand what that word means. It’s not writing a check to Greenpeace. It’s about putting yourself into it. You make your commitment and things happen. It’s like a miracle. You create action, you create events.

GV: And the energy builds up around you.

DW: That’s right. What people don’t understand is I don’t plan a thing. My actions come from a spontaneous, intuitive place. When you’re a fisherman on the bay you’re very instinctive about where you go. You feel the moon and the water and the wind. You imagine where the shrimp or the fish are going. You have to think like them. When I do my actions, it’s the same thing. I just put the intent out there. Some of the most miraculous actions are completely spontaneous.

GV: Relying on your intuition comes naturally to you.

DW: Oh yes. Matter of fact, I consider myself a mystic.

GV: Can you talk about that a little bit?

DW: I’ve been on the water my whole life. When I was about five I can remember going to the bay and the bay was a woman. I could see her. She had gray hair. I felt like she was my grandmother. The thing is, it was visual. It was emotional. I felt her. I saw her. When I would come to the bay I felt so welcomed. She was like, “Why Diane!” It was like coming to see your grandmother who adored you. And it was real. It wasn’t airy-fairy or pie-in-the-sky. It was a real, physical thing. There was never a boundary between me and the water or the wind. It moved into my boundaries. There was no place where I could say I was different from it.

GV: I know exactly what you mean. I feel the same way about the mountains here. So did the bay tell you what was going on?

DW: Being a fisherman I knew something was wrong. We were having brown tides and green tides, and the red tide which was like a carpet. Fish were coming out of the water trying to get air, and we had a huge dolphin die-off. The shrimping had gotten so bad I tied up my boat and was running a fish house. The resource wasn’t there anymore. So I knew things were happening but I didn’t have any information about why. Then one day in 1989 a shrimper — who had three different kinds of cancer and huge lumps all over his arms — gave me a newspaper article about the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). This was the first time industry had to report the toxins they were dumping into the air, water, and land. And it was the first time I had seen anything in the paper about what the chemical plants in the county were doing to the environment. The article said we were the number one county in the nation for toxic disposal! I was totally flabbergasted! I couldn’t just sit on that kind of information.

GV: I remember when the TRI first came out. It was such a shock to learn that millions of pounds of toxins were being spewed into the environment every year.

DW: People still cannot believe it. And it’s a big myth government agencies are taking care of it for you. At one point I went to get some information from the district office of the Texas Environmental Agency in Corpus Christi. Come to find out that the executive director, who was up for retirement, had an application in to the company I was fighting. Two inspectors pulled me aside, went to a file room, gave me information about contamination, and said, “You do something because it’s going nowhere here”. And that’s the way it is. It’s a revolving door.

GV: So what did you do after the TRI came out?

DW: First thing I did was call a meeting at the fish house. I was inexperienced and naive. All I knew was what I read in the paper. I had the meeting and was promptly attacked by mayors, chambers of commerce, business people who believed that questioning the corporations was asking for economic trouble. I was unprepared for all the hate that was directed at me. Why did they care? I was just a woman in Seadrift who called a meeting.

 


GET YOUR NEWS FROM CHELSEA GREEN

Sign up for our e-newsletter today and get 25% off your next purchase in our bookstore. Please note that discount codes do not combine with other offers or books already on sale.