Environmentalist, writer, and spitfire Edward Abbey coined a term with his most-admired book, The Monkey Wrench Gang. Now imagine a one-woman gang, climbing 75 feet up a chemical-spewing smokestack at a plastics plant in rural Southeast Texas, dropping a spray-painted banner that declares, “Remember Bhopal.” How did she get there? Isn’t India just about as far from rural Texas as you could imagine?
That character, in Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, is not fictional. She’s a mom of five—her youngest is a honky-tonk-blasting autistic 16-year-old boy—living in a trailer in a company town owned by Dow Chemical/Union Carbide/Alcoa, depending on which way the corporate winds blow. She’s also a high-profile environmental activist, who began by trying to protect the Gulf Coast bays where her family had worked as shrimpers for generations, a story told in her earlier book An Unreasonable Woman.
This is Diane Wilson’s rollicking tale of how she was moved to action by the infamous tragedy in Bhopal, where lethal fumes from a Union Carbide chemical plant killed thousands overnight. Sometimes Wilson raises hell just for the sake of it, but she also connects a senseless tragedy and the pain of mothers half a world away to her own family and community. It takes some elbow grease to reveal the connections between Texas and India, not to mention wine and cheese with Dick Cheney. Read on.
- A jail sentence for civil disobedience led Wilson to to improve the conditions of the 70,000 incarcerated in Texas.
How does the United States try cases of civil disobedience? Activist Tim DeChristopher on how much has changed since the founding fathers.