Diane Wilson is an environmental activist, CODEPINK Cofounder, a fourth-generation shrimper, mother and the author of An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas (Chelsea Green, 2005) and Holy Roller: Growing Up in the Church of Knock Down, Drag Out; or, How I Quit Loving a Blue-Eyed Jesus
Here’s her telling of the less-well-known story behind how CODEPINK began and why all of us need to be outraged about the BP oilspill (and doing something about it!)
Eight years ago– pre CodePink– thirty very unreasonable women met for a week in a canyon in California. These early Unreasonable Women for the Earth had a goal and that was to discuss how to bring a new, bolder, braver, and more enlightened change to our badgered and bedeviled home we call Planet Earth. In those early days, we were very diverse; we were from all corners– left and right, top and bottom –of the USA. Our skins were brown, white, black, and red. We were a rainbow of women with a rainbow of causes and our struggles stretched from the theaters in New York City, to immigration in Seattle, to urban gardens in LA, to petrochemical hellholes in Texas, to the peace work in the streets of Washington, DC. One commonality, though, united us all: a dream to bring life instead of death, hope instead of despair, justice instead of injustice, and peace instead of war to this Planet Earth.
One of our first actions as Unreasonable Women of the Earth was to support the Bhopal hunger strike. Bhopal, India is the site of the worst environmental disaster in the world. Over 20,000 people have died from the insecticide-like poison that was released from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, in 1984. In 2002, the survivors of Bhopal began another hunger strike to wrestle justice from the Indian government and also the Union Carbide Corporation. But they fell ill. The Unreasonable Women of the Earth heard about their plight and decided to begin a USA leg of the hunger fast. The Bhopal fast for justice enlisted over a thousand people and 8 different countries and was so successful that the Indian Government, that had been considering dropping the charges against Union Carbide and making the tragedy a little more than a traffic accident, reinstated the charges against Union Carbide and put out extradition papers to have Warren Anderson, former CEO of Union Carbide, returned to India to stand trial. The Bhopal activists gave much of the credit for the success of that hunger strike to The Unreasonable Women of the Earth.
Shortly after that action in 2002, many of those very same Unreasonable Women of the Earth rose to the challenge of the USA government’s pre-emptive strike on Iraq and founded CodePink. That war, in a country thousands of miles away, enlisted all of our stamina, strength, and courage but we never lost sight of the fact that ALL the dots were connected—the war in Iraq did not stand by itself. Sometimes it’s just a little easier to see than at other times. For me, living in Texas along the Gulf Coast in the oil, chemical, and gas hellhole we call an energy corridor, the reason for the pre-emptive war was crystal clear. The war was about oil. Who had it and who controlled it. It was not only about our addiction to oil and fossil fuel but also the stranglehold of corporations upon this nation. Corporate stranglehold in our country was such that the former CEO of a huge corporation that landed billions of dollars in war contracts in Iraq was also vice president of the USA. I’m talking Dick Cheney, here.
We are seeing those dots connected again with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is easily shown by the careless, cavalier attitude of BP CEO, Tony Hayward, who has said that the largest oil spill in US history is a tiny spill in comparison to such a big ocean and that those miles upon miles of underwater oil plumes that stretches to who knows where and doing who knows what to the fisheries, the ecosystem, and the Gulf of Mexico for possible generations, is really, by their estimate, going to have a “very very modest impact.” The words ‘their estimate’ should have sent up a red flag. BP’s first estimate: the oil was not leaking. Second estimate: it was a l, 000 barrels. Third estimate: it was 5,000 barrels. Independent researchers have estimated the oil leaking from the ruptured well is perhaps 75,000-25,000 barrels. BP wasn’t even close and if they were, they certainly weren’t telling.
This funny kind of truth telling isn’t news to me. I’m a fourth generation fisherwoman and for the last twenty-one years of my life I have been fighting corporations such as these. It’s a hard thing to do, too, when corporations are self-regulating and the agencies in control are NOT in control. But then that’s all about corporate stranglehold, isn’t it? Who has the resource (and profits and power!) and who controls it. That’s why the BP action that we are fixing to engage in is so important to Unreasonable Women of the Earth and Codepinkers. The dragon that we wage against in an unjust war over oil is the same dragon in the Gulf of Mexico. Just pull back the mask. You’ll see.