Dow Action Diary: Day 25

On July 17, activist Diane Wilson began a hunger strike in front of the gates of the Dow Chemical/Union Carbide corporation in Seadrift, Texas. She hopes to call attention to the plight of victims of 1984's industrial accident in Bhopal, India where, to date, Dow has still not cleaned up the derelict factory or adequately compensated the victims and survivors. Supporting Diane are Jodie Evans and other members of the group UnReasonable Women. What follows are excerpts from the daily emails Jodie and others send to the hundreds of supporters also on hunger strikes around the world in support of the victims of Bhopal.

The afternoon stayed quiet yesterday; the sun came out and put on its blazing show. At night, there was heavy thunder and lightening, the kind that makes you feel the crackle through your skin and bones. In the morning, the early light fills with a trickling rain and shines on wet grounds. There's a rainbow again (there was one yesterday over the bay, and Diane says there was a rainbow the morning before too), this time even visible over by the Dow plant.

By the time we get to the plant at 7am, we can tell it's going to be one hot day. There's no breeze, not a bit of it. The air is still and thick, and the sun is creeping out from behind the clouds. Hilton and Michael show up, and Hilton takes several pictures in front of the plant, with the bucket.

We see the security trucks driving up and down in front of us -- they're definitely noticing what is happening. Hilton leaves us with instructions on how to pull the air sample. When we thank him for coming down, he says, "Everybody has the right to clean air and water. The fight's not over. This is a whole network of support we have here."

Diane looks a little tired. I ask her, "Are you?" "Yeah, I guess I am a little tired," she says. It's hot and humid, enough to run you down even without 25 days of fasting. I give her all her minerals for the day and urge her to drink, and pour myself some too. My body is noticing the lack of food and the heat too.

Diane notices that across the street, a little way down from us, the fence has been torn down. A car that crashed off the road?

"I hope I'm not being paranoid, but I'm wondering if Dow pulled part of that fence down themselves so that they could say it was terrorism and use the security card against us again," Diane says. Yes, it doesn't seem so absurd at all. Over the course of the day, there are at least five trucks that show up in front of that fence, checking it out -- or maybe checking us out too.

We want to pull the air sample from over by the docks, where the spill was, off the public road that Dow is trying to close citing security again. Michael and I go off to get the sample. The road runs alongside part of the Dow plant, on the opposite side from the main factory. Down by the bay, we pass by the big tanks. One circular tank is labeled Butadiene. Diane says that those circular tanks are used for explosives. Michael and I pull up on the other side of the tanks, outside the wire fence, where he thinks we'll attract the least attention from security.

It smells here. Clearly. We see the flames and smoke coming out of the tanks and videotape it all. Getting the air sample takes a while; if we weren't pros at it at the beginning, we are by the end.

Just as we're finishing up, a Dow Security truck pulls up: "What the heck are you doin' out here? Catchin' crawfish?" he says suspiciously.

"Oh, just getting a little air sample," we say. And then Michael adds smartly, "Might want to move your truck out of the way so we don't get your exhaust in there." The guard backs up quickly, and then slowly drives around us. As he pulls in front of Michael's truck, he slows down and I see him writing down our license plate.

No more jobs for Michael at the Dow plant. Some things in life are sacrifices.

As we drive back, Michael and I talk about how these kinds of smells are so prevalent in India. So much there is left unchecked; emissions standards so new or non-existent for the most part; and those that exist are rarely enforced. And all of it a sign of the industrial age of "progress."

When we get to the truck, I tell Diane that she should go home and rest.

"And leave you here all day?" She's reluctant but not too reluctant. I promise to call if anything happens.

"They can get mean over here, you know," she warns me. "No problem," I say. "I've handled mean before. They get mean, I'll get nicer." She laughs and drives off with a wave.

Out in the truck, a thunderstorm rolls back over and starts pouring on me. I scramble to avoid the rain coming through the holes in the tarp.

The rain clears. There's still lots to be done for the action on Aug. 15. Mainly calling people. People have said they'll come, but really for this to be effective, we need to be phone banking. Wayne, Diane's boyfriend, stops by and agrees that we've got to call people. That's on my list for Caroline or someone else to do. There's still flyers to write, things to be copied. Indra has sent a whole lot of documents for us to print and copy; they are wonderful, powerful, clear. We'll be able to start handing those out soon. Michael spoke to the ACLU lawyer yesterday and he'll be here the night before to talk about all the scenarios.

The afternoon passes uneventfully and humidly. Diane comes back to check on me, stays for about an hour telling me about her amazing life.

"This is the most me I've ever felt in my whole life," she says. "All my life, I've had people pushing me into a box and I'm just jumping to get out. I just feel so good about myself now."

When it's time to pull everything down, I make her drink more of her minerals and promise to rest. She promises. She needs it and she's wise enough to know it. I realize that if I can't change my flight tomorrow, this will be the last day I'm out there with her. Our goodbye isn't goodbye at all -- it's the best hello I've ever had.

I am so grateful for my time here, for the rare feeling that the world really does belong to all of us. With tremendous gratitude to all of you who have been sending love, resources, energy to correcting the injustices in Bhopal, Seadrift and all over.

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