Diary of an Eco-Outlaw: An Unreasonable Woman Breaks the Law for Mother Earth
Diane Wilson is an activist, shrimper, and all around hell-raiser whose first book, An Unreasonable Woman, told of her battle to save her bay in Seadrift, Texas. Back then, she was an accidental activist who worked with whistleblowers, organized protests, and eventually sunk her own boat to stop the plastic-manufacturing giant Formosa from releasing dangerous chemicals into water she shrimped in, grew up on, and loved.
But, it turns out, the fight against Formosa was just the beginning. In Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, Diane writes about what happened as she began to fight injustice not just in Seadrift, but around the world-taking on Union Carbide for its failure to compensate those injured in the Bhopal disaster, cofounding the women's antiwar group Code Pink to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, attempting a citizens arrest of Dick Cheney, famously covering herself with fake oil and demanding the arrest of then BP CEO Tony Hayward as he testified before Congress, and otherwise becoming a world-class activist against corporate injustice, war, and environmental crimes.As George Bernard Shaw once said, "all progress depends on unreasonable women." And in the Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, the eminently unreasonable Wilson delivers a no-holds-barred account of how she-a fourth-generation shrimper, former boat captain, and mother of five-took a turn at midlife, unable to stand by quietly as she witnessed abuses of people and the environment. Since then, she has launched legislative campaigns, demonstrations, and hunger strikes-and generally gotten herself in all manner of trouble.All worth it, says Wilson. Jailed more than 50 times for civil disobedience, Wilson has stood up for environmental justice, and peace, around the world-a fact that has earned her many kudos from environmentalists and peace activists alike, and that has forced progress where progress was hard to come by.
Diane Wilson, a 4th-generation Texan shrimper, never planned to take on corporate chemical giants like Dow Chemicals or BP. In fact, until her 40s she had never been outside of her county, being more than content with her life as long as she could feel the bayou breeze on her salty skin. And although shrimp fishing yields were in a general decline, it was a story in the local paper that “unexpectedly” turned her life around: “…Calhoun County was number one in the nation for toxic disposal, and [we] had the distinct honor of containing half the hazardous waste that Texas generated.” Without any preamble Diane simply responded—as any reasonable person would, and set things in motion for a town meeting. Diary of an Eco-Outlaw takes readers on the wild ride of her life since that moment when she became an “environmental activist” – a word she had to look up in the dictionary.
Now over a decade later, Diane continues to fight corporate-induced environmental devastation and human atrocity, but this isn’t how she defines herself. Still living in her dilapidated rattlesnake-infested trailer, Diane hasn’t “become” an activist, she doesn’t plot and scheme against a targeted enemy, she simply responds to injustice with uncomplicated clarity and conviction about right and wrong. Diane lives by following her moral compass and since most of us have lost our direction, she is an anomaly; consequently, she has had more than her share of jail cells, crazy ideas and protests, human tragedy, duplicity, and danger. Her prose is vivid and immediate, punctuated with wit, sass, and raw candor. You will laugh, cry, rage, and cower at the profit-driven disregard for human life and the unadulterated efforts for corporate accountability by this ordinary woman: an extraordinary role model for the rest of us.
This is an hilariously entertaining book of an almost impossible sort.
For years I've met fulltime hardcore activists full of powerful and colorful stories that I thought I knew would die with them. Most people are tragically and frustratingly allergic to writing anything down. Wilson is an all-out activist, a Gulf Coast shrimper turned civil resister who has made herself a major thorn in the side of several multinational corporations. She's part Forest Gump, part Erin Brokovich, part Daniel Berrigan, and she has put her stories down on paper. Her book is a guide to becoming a one-person justice movement.
Wilson has not only lived as a shrimper who experienced the arrival of the polluting chemical companies that would kill off the shrimp, but she has put that experience into context -- and I mean context.
So a woman who had struggled to become a shrimper in a man's world became an activist, a resister, a hunger-striker, and an aid to whistleblowers, not to mention an author. Wilson very rapidly developed into the kind of activist who will act immediately upon the wildest idea available. When Union Carbide / Dow was poisoning her corner of Texas, while shortchanging the victims of a disaster the company had caused in India, Wilson scaled a fence, climbed a tower, dropped a banner, and chained herself up. Wilson declared herself an unreasonable woman and announced the need for more of the same. Inevitably, she was involved in launching one of my favorite peace groups, CodePink.
One of Wilson's more entertaining stories involves her sneaking into a fundraiser to protest then-Vice President Dick Cheney. Another is when she decides to sink her boat on top of an illegal discharge pipe, the Coast Guard tries to stop her, and a surprising ally takes her side.
Wilson's book is part of her activism, exposing the crimes and lies of the corporations she has protested. Her repeated willingness to risk jail leads to some of the best whistleblowing in the book, as she describes the horrors of the Texas penal system.
The stories Wilson tells about Union Carbide and Dow and Formosa and BP are worse, far worse. The actions she takes to counter their crimes include single-handedly filling in for the government agencies -- notably the EPA -- that are supposed to enforce laws. Wilson generates media coverage of abuses, educates the public, attempts citizens arrests, and afflicts the comfortable when she can't comfort the afflicted. After organizing a CodePink naked women's protest of BP in Houston, she greeted one of its bought-off senators, Lisa Murkowski, in a Congressional hearing by pouring oil-looking syrup all over herself and denouncing BP's destruction of the Gulf. Then Wilson managed to get back in, to another hearing the same week, to protest BP's then-CEO Tony Hayward with black paint all over her.
As Wilson demanded Hayward's arrest through the microphone of world media (and the end of his work running BP would be announced the next day, his departure from the company a month later), Wilson herself was the outlaw under our system of so-called justice. She faced criminal charges in Texas from which she was fleeing, and now in Washington, D.C., as well, but hopped a plane to Taiwan where she would present a Black Planet Award (for destroying part of the planet) to Formosa Plastics, the biggest corporation in Taiwan. The headlines all celebrated "The Woman Who Fights Formosa."
The last line of Wilson's book is "Now -- where's that Tony Hayward?"
She found him (or his company) last week, with another Black Planet Award, and despite being kept out of BP's shareholders' meeting, helped generate stories around the world about the oil that is still killing the Gulf of Mexico where once upon a time a woman could make a living with a shrimp boat.