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Diane Wilson

Are people still fishing in the Bay where you live?

We’re a pretty good ways away from the well in Texas, although we’re getting dead sea birds. A couple of days ago, a Vietnamese shrimper was fishing in the Gulf for red snapper, and he said a huge area had all of these dead fish of all sizes just floating. 

Within the oil plumes there are extremely high concentrations of methane; and, in some cases, they are a thousand times what they’re supposed to be and when this happens is creates a dead zone.

When did the activist awaken in you?

I’m a late bloomer. I didn’t start my activism until I was 40 years old. I had been on a boat since I was 8 years old and a sea captain since I was 24 years old. I never had any experience with companies or regulatory agencies. 

I believed that the corporations and agencies were doing their job, that there’s federal and state laws and everything was being watched out for. 

When I found out that our county was number one for toxic disposal in 1989, all I did was question it. I called a meeting, and I got such a backlash from the politicians, the agencies and from the Chamber of Commerce. 

It made me realize how corporations control America and how agencies have their hands tied. What BP is doing out there is another deadly example of what has been going on for years. Nobody is minding the store and it’s all about profits.

You’ve had first hand experience with taking on a large corporation. What did it take to get Formosa Plastics to stop eliminating toxic waste into the ocean where you live?

I got Formosa Plastics to go zero discharge into the Bay, which they did not do willingly. The first couple of years I called meetings, asked for public hearings, and filed lawsuits and petitions. All you get are pieces, so I started doing some pretty out there civil disobedience like hunger strikes.

Did other people join you in this?

No, when I first started nobody joined me. I truly believe that all it takes is a few people to stand out and put yourself out there on the edge. When you move from your gut and your heart and commit yourself, it’s a different type of energy and you create action.
That’s all I did. And I’m just high school educated. I didn’t have a huge group behind me. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t even have my family backing me on this. It was intention, and I don’t think I’m anything at all special. I think we all have it. All you have to do is step out.

What do you think makes blogging and social media unique?

In traditional media, it takes years of training and rejections before your ideas see the light. When you use social media, you can start publishing right away, and learn as you go. 

This is the crucial distinction between information flow in the 20th and 21st centuries. These days, everybody has the means to inform their opinions and make them widely known. 

Not only that, but everything is up for discussion. 

Media has become a conversation instead of a lecture, and this creates a whole new level of personal connection between writers and readers.

What was the turning point with Formosa Plastics to stop dumping toxins?

I think it was when I took my shrimp boat out to sink it on top of their discharge point. 

Up until that point, it was hard to motivate the fisherman, because they were so depressed and they did not believe you could fight city hall. 

They believed their days were numbered, but when I took my boat out to sink it, I touched them in a place that wasn’t in their head; it was in their heart. I got all of those shrimpers to go out in their boats in the middle of a storm, and it was unheard of. I think when Formosa saw that, they realized I had the people behind me and that’s when they gave up.

How are you applying these same tactics to save the Gulf of Mexico?

I think if we sit back and wait for the agencies, the politicians or BP to make all the decisions we’re going to lose it. The people are the only ones who can make the change; and we have to demand it, and we need to quit being so well behaved.
I just poured oil (Karo Syrup) on myself and spoke out at the hearing with the BP CEO, and they want to jail me for a year and a half. I have two counts of unlawful conduct, which is pretty funny, considering there has been no mention of illegal misconduct about a company that has spilled millions of gallons of oil and dispersants into the ocean. 

I was trying to communicate that we are mad. This is America and we have freedom of speech. We have to fight for what we believe in and that’s what I’m doing.

When did CODEPINK come into all of this?

I was invited to speak at the Bioneers Conference. At the end of my speech, I said a reasonable woman adapts to the world, and an unreasonable woman makes the world adapt to her (adapting from Bernard Shaw’s quote). Afterwards women came up to me crying and said they were so glad I told them to be unreasonable. 

It dawned on me that what this country needs is a bunch of unreasonable women for the Earth. I had a vision so Nina Simons and Kenny Ausubel pulled together funding and 25 of some of the most unreasonable women in the country. 

We talked about how we would form this group. Our first action was a thirty-day hunger strike to support the people of Bhopal, India.
It was right after that that someone asked what we were going to do about the war in Iraq and as a joke we called it CODEPINK where we call for women to stand up and fight injustice and war.

How can we support the work you’re doing?

I don’t think you have to travel long distances to become active. People in their own home can find a way to protest. They say this is probably our country’s worst environmental disaster, and yet there are so few people out there. It might be scary and you might look like a fool, but it’s about morality, humanity and standing up for what’s right. 

We need to lift the $75 million cap and change the way America conducts our energy. There are a million reasons that they say why we can’t do it, but we have to do it and the people have to be the avenue that gets it out there.

What is your message to women around the word?

Don’t be so well behaved.

See Jane Do is a multimedia program capturing the stories of everyday women doing extraordinary things for the planet. Catch the one-hour talk radio program on KVMR 89.5FM the first Wednesday of every month at 1 p.m.

Get Involved! Five things you can do today to stop offshore drilling:

  1. Online action: Sign a petition at www.oceana.org to stop offshore drilling and join the FB page 1,000,000 Strong Against Offshore Drilling.
  2. Support the National Wildlife Federation by giving supplies like GPS units and digital cameras or hold a fundraiser in your community. www.nwf.org
  3. Speak up and demand that oil companies clean up their mess and lift the $75 million cap. Current legislation puts BP off the hook for damages above $75 million.
  4. Become an online wildlife advocate to help spread messages, www.nwf.org/Oil-Spill/Ways-To-Help/Share.aspx#messages, about the oil spill’s impacts to wildlife. Share information and photos of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
  5. Volunteer – The Nature Conservancy is coordinating with groups such as the National Audubon Society and LA Gulf Response to place volunteers in needed areas. Go to www.gulfresponse.org to find out how you can volunteer.

About Mark Burgess

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