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Josh Nelson, Host:
Diane Wilson is truly an eco-outlaw. And yes, in case you are wondering, I consider that to be a huge compliment. The courage and perseverance she displays in the stories shared in this volume should be an inspiration for anyone concerned about the role of corporations in society or what those corporations are doing to the planet.
From Calhoun County, Texas to Bhopal, India, Diane is a fearless agitator for change and a voice for what’s right. Courage, fearlessness and perseverance aside, the attribute most essential to Diane’s activism is conviction. Like all environmental activism, Diane’s is fueled by a conviction that something has gone horribly wrong with the way people relate to the planet and that she has a unique responsibility to do something about it. Diane, like many others before and since, has a feeling growing inside her that unscrupulous corporations are literally killing the planet in pursuit of slightly higher profits. I’ve got the same feeling growing inside me, and I suspect many of you do too.
It’s the same kind of conviction that you can read in Rachel Carson’s words or hear in Bill McKibben’s speeches. It’s the same kind of conviction that motivated a young hero named Tim DeChristopher to risk his own freedom in order to disrupt oil and gas drilling on 150,000 acres in Utah. Activism that stems from such a strong conviction is powerful because it represents societal changes that can’t be defeated, only delayed. When you know you’re doing the right thing and making a difference, that knowledge will feed you during hunger strikes and keep you in the fight regardless of the odds.
From her upbringing on a Texas shrimp boat, through her progression as a mother and environmental activist, Diary of an Eco Outlaw puts Diane Wilson’s conviction on display time and time again. Her activism began when the nation’s first Toxics Release Inventory was made public in 1989. The inventory found her rural Texas County, which was littered with chemical plants, to be the most polluted in the county. Diane was changed by this knowledge, and immediately went to work learning everything she could about the nearby chemical plants and plotting strategies for forcing them to stop polluting her community.
But if the Toxics Release Inventory is what began Diane’s transition from shrimper to environmentalist, witnessing the devastation of Union Carbide’s carelessness in Bhopal, India is what caused her to transform further, from environmentalist to environmental activist – a title she now wears with pride. While in Bhopal, Diane listened to the stories of those who had survived the 1984 disaster and the family members of those who hadn’t. She learned about the panic and helplessness hundreds of thousands of people experienced on that December night when a huge quantity of gases and chemicals leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal. And she saw a set of powerful photographs of unborn babies who were killed by the chemicals. They reminded Diane of her own children, and they’ll forever serve as a stark reminder of why it is important to continue the fight.
Whether it is Bhopal or BP, in the Arctic or at Upper Big Branch, there are no shortages of environmental and human disasters that can serve as similar reminders for each of us. Diane’s decades of smart and effective activism have shown over the years that it doesn’t take a Master’s Degree in public policy, an inside knowledge of the EPA’s bureaucracy or a thick rolodex to be an environmental activist. All it takes is a conviction that things aren’t right, a vision for how they should be and a willingness to jump into the fight with everything you’ve got.