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An Unreasonable Woman

by Helene VostersSpecial to CorpWatch
May 15th, 2003


Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation shrimper, is a long time environmental justice activist and adversary to corporate polluters like Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. In the early 1980's after witnessing dolphin die-offs, decreased fish catches, and increased health problems in her home-town of Seadrift, Texas, Wilson discovered that she lived in the most polluted county (Calhoun) in the U.S.

Her response? To fight back.

Wilson has staged hunger strikes, direct action campaigns and almost sank her shrimp boat to force chemical companies in Calhoun County to sign zero discharge agreements. In the process of her growing environmental justice activism she has also become a dedicated ally to the survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster--Union Carbide's 1984 deadly gas leak in Bhopal, India.

Wilson's connection to Bhopal began in 1991 when, after being declared the safest plant in Texas, Carbide's Seadrift facility had an explosion that killed one and injured 30 workers, as well as injuring six residents outside the plant. Following the incident Wilson attended a people's tribunal India to testify against Union Carbide. There, she heard the testimony of hundreds of Bhopal survivors.

"Even eight years after the gas spill the scars were visible, the damage, especially to the eyes, was very visible," said Wilson.

At a candlelight vigil to the abandoned pesticide factory in Bhopal Wilson walked to the wall and wrote, "REMEMBER BHOPAL," a vow she has kept.

On their first tour of the U.S. Wilson arranged a meeting for Bhopal survivors with local Carbide officials. "They made [the Bhopal survivors] sit through a 30 minute safety film," said Wilson. "They promote safety, safety, safety and yet they have contamination here, contamination there, it's in the groundwater, it's everywhere then they talk up safety."

Last summer, in solidarity with a hunger strike launched by survivors Rashida Bee and Tara Bai and long time Bhopal activist Satinath Sarangi, Wilson staged a 30-day hunger strike outside of the Dow chemical plant in Seadrift. Several weeks after ending her fast Wilson, scaled a 70-foot tower at the Dow facility, chained herself to the structure, and unfurled a banner that read: "DOW-RESPONSIBLE FOR BHOPAL."

"The company must think we're stupid enough to forgive and forget the world's worst corporate crime, and let Dow Chemical off the hook," said Wilson in a statement from atop Dow's tower. She has been charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest.