Award-winning Environmental Activist and CodePink Co-founder; Featured in acclaimed 2008 Documentary Texas Gold
When Diane Wilson discovered her small, Gulf-coast county was the most polluted in the nation, she embarked on a remarkable and sometimes hair raising journey to protect her community. Hear this environmental activist and Code-Pink co-founder tell how she helped stop environmental violations by several Gulf Coast chemical companies at the Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors, Inc. annual meeting “Corporate Accountability: One Woman’s Struggle and Triumph.”
The meeting takes place Wednesday, October 5 at 7:30 pm at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center at 200 N. Main Street in Fairfield, Iowa. The Leopold Group Sierra Club, Sustainable Living Coalition, KRUU-FM, and Radish Magazine, are cosponsoring the event.
Wilson is a colorful and celebrated activist whose civil actions, she says, “come from the heart, using a different kind of energy that industry doesn’t know how to control.” She will share stories about her remarkable efforts and the driving force that enables her to help get corporations to change their environmental practices. “If you do anything half-hearted, you’re not going to make a change,” Wilson says.
A fourth-generation shrimper and mother of five, Wilson was running her brother’s fish house in 1989 when she read a newspaper article that said Calhoun County, Texas, home to 15,000 people – including Wilson – was first in the nation on the EPA’s list of toxic waste disposal. That kick started what became a tireless effort to help stop Formosa Plastics, a multinational chemical corporation producing polyvinylchloride and other chemicals, from dumping toxic wastes into Lavaca Bay by her home in Seadrift, Texas.
Wilson became conversant in chemical compounds and learned how to maneuver around red tape and bureaucracy to get information. She helped cultivate links between labor and environmental groups and developed relationships with individuals in government agencies.
In her book, An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift Texas Wilson writes how she discovered the alleged corrupt workings of the political system, and describes how she was ostracized and persecuted in her own community. She eventually persuaded Formosa Plastics to sign a zero-discharge agreement then got nearby Alcoa to sign one as well.
Normally shy, Wilson has become a fierce and determined activist who has since taken on a number of other environmental and human rights causes. In the 1990’s, she advocated for the adequate remuneration for 550,000 Bhopal victims who were injured during the lethal Union Carbide chemical spill that eventually killed 11,000 people. Wilson also initiated the American leg of a worldwide hunger strike, which helped to influence India to demand the extradition of Union Carbide’s chairman Warren Anderson who was charged with manslaughter.
More recently, Wilson founded both the Texas Jail Project, fighting for more humane conditions in Texas county jails, and Injured Workers United, which supports and advocates for injured workers and whistleblowers within the Gulf Coast petrochemical and oil industries.
Following a path of Gandhi-like civil disobedience, she has been arrested fifty times, undertaken month-long hunger strikes, sunk boats, scaled chemical towers, and disrupted corporate shareholder meetings in Houston, Taipei, and London. Wilson also made national news with protests at two US Senate hearings on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
An author of three books, Wilson is a founding member of CodePink, a women’s peace and human rights group based in Washington, DC. She presented at two national Bioneers Conferences in San Francisco and was featured in the award-winning documentary Texas Gold and in the book Americans Who Tell the Truth. Several cable news shows invited Wilson to speak during their news coverage of the BP oil spill. A recent recipient of the Dobie Paisano Writing Fellowship for 2010, she is currently working on her fourth book.
Diane Wilson has received numerous awards, including National Fisherman Magazine Award, Mother Jones’ Hell Raiser of the Month, Louis Gibbs’ Environmental Lifetime Award, Louisiana Environmental Action (LEAN) Environmental Award, Giraffe Project, Jennifer Altman Award, Code Pink Woman of the Year, and the Bioneers Award.
In addition to Wilson’s presentation, JFAN president Jim Rubis will provide an overview of JFAN’s activities, and a question and answer forum will be held at the conclusion of the event.
Admission is free, and a donation of $5 is welcome to support JFAN’s mission. JFAN is a tax-exempt, nonprofit educational organization that works to protect the quality of life for all Jefferson County residents. All donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. www.jfaniowa.org.