Sunday, September 18, 2011

Diane Wilson

Today's Awesome Woman is Diane Wilson, a Texas shrimper who has been a long-time, hard-fightin' radical activist against industrial polluters, the war machine, and just about any other Goliath she puts in the sights of her stinging slingshot.

In a July interview on Truthout by Joni Praded, soon after the release of her latest book, "Diary of an Eco-Outlaw: An Unreasonable Woman Breaks the Law for Mother Earth," Wilson explains how her first motivation to action -- which to date has resulted in more than 50 civil-disobedience arrests -- became her nonstop pursuit ever since:
I read an Associated Press story about my county being number one toxic polluter in the nation in l989. That information was too horrendous for me to ignore, so I simply called a meeting, and it snowballed for the next 20 years.
That snowball is made up of some admirably outrageous actions such as sinking her own boat to cover a Formosa Plastics drainpipe in order to block its discharge into her bay. This motivated what she terms "the apathetic fishermen" and the outcome was winning zero-discharge agreements from two industrial giants, Formosa and Alcoa. (In 2002, though, Formosa was still listed in the 90th percentile of the worst environmental polluters by Scorecard, a pollution information site.)

In another incident, Wilson attempted to make a citizen's arrest of Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide which had caused 20,000 deaths in the Bhopal disaster.

Diane Wilson's mission broadened from fighting major polluters and industrial criminality to human rights and peace activisism. In the interview when asked to name her "most surprising" action, she cites her visit to Iraq in 2003 with "an early version of CodePink," where "we were really getting tired of a particular American TV station broadcasting cheerful words for invasion. So, we decided to take over the TV station. And we did. I was amazed that we did the action, and even more amazed that we succeeded." She has also stood outside nude in front of the Houston office of BP after the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred.

Each encounter with unjust and evil systems seems to only strengthen Wilson's resolve and broaden her platform:

... being jailed all those times and for such lengths of time in some of the worst jails in the country, didn't depress me - it gave me ideas on how to fight it and change the way things are done. That's how Texas Jail Project got started. It wouldn't have happened unless I had been jailed. For instance, now, instead of just listening to horrendous stories of women in jail going into labor while shackled and tied to their beds, we try to do something about it. During the last Texas legislative session, Texas Jail Project helped make shackling of all pregnant women inmates, whether in prison or county jail, illegal. So, I believe things happen for a reason.

(Photo by ACMEBoston / Flickr )