Diane Wilson: Texas Prisoner of Conscience

A roundup of web news about the high goddess of Texas environmental responsibility, Part One, Corporate Watchdog Radio.

Corporate Watchdog Radio:
Show 3, "Bhopal, India, 21 Years Later" ; mp3 audio.

"On the
night of Dec. 3, 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India emitted a
noxious gas cloud of Methyl Isocyanide. More than 20,000 people
have died as a result."

In addition to an interview with Wilson, attorney Sanford Lewis interviews Sathyu Satinath Sarangi, Managing Director of the Sambhavna Trust Clinic in Bhopal:

"We estimate there are 120,000 to 150,000 people who are chronically
ill from the gas disaster. And there are 10,000 to 15,000 people
who are sick from the contaminated groundwater. And also there
were tens of thousands of children who were born after the disaster,
and we have found that those children also carry the marks of Union
Carbide’s poison," says Sarangi.

"The women of Bhopal they have just got back last week. They were at
the Dow India’s Bombay headquarters where they demonstrated and they
pasted a proclamation asking Dow to clean up Bhopal and to stop
marketing and producing Dursban which was banned in the US, but is now being promoted and produced in India," says Sarangi

"So the women continue to fight. They are fighting for clean
water in the groundwater contaminated area. And they are fighting
for punishment to Warren Anderson and Union Carbide, demanding that the
US government send them to the Indian courts. And they continue
to fight for better medical care. . . ."

"So the fight for what they
call justice and dignity–that continues. And what is amazing and
inspiring is that the stuggle of these women becomes more powerful with
every passing year."

A Museum of Remembrance and a statue dedicated to the disaster was dedicated in December, with a march of children, a vigil in front of a Union
Carbide factory, and denunciation of the "crumpled life" that has been left to victims.

Interlude: "Flames not Flowers" by Movement in Motion, a Bhopal rap.

Developing a theme of women’s leadership in the global movement for environmental justice, Lewis next interviews Lois Marie Gibbs,
executive director of the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice,
who in 1978 founded the Love Canal Homeowners’ Association.

"It is perfectly logical and predictable," says Gibbs, "that if you
threaten the lives of children, mothers will stand up and be
‘unreasonable’ and do what they have to do to make it right," says
Gibbs. "If someone holds a gun to your child’s head and says it
may or may not go off, you have every reason to scream ‘unreasonably’ get that
gun away from the child’s head. That’s the way it is with

Turning now to Diane and Dow, Lewis says that both Diane Wilson and Dow
executive Warren Anderson are both fugitives of a sort (this was before
Wilson was jailed).

"Diane has been charged with criminal trespass for hanging a banner at
a Union Carbide Dow Chemical facility that said, "Dow: Responsible for
Bhopal. She received a six month jail sentence for that which she is due to serve.

"Warren Anderson was CEO of Union Carbide back in 1984 when the Carbide
plant in India blew up and killed more than 20,000 people. He
visited Bhopal shortly after the incident and agreed to return for any
legal proceedings. After leaving he was charged with manslaughter
for those thousands of deaths, along with Union Carbide. However,
Anderson and Carbide have refused to return to India to face the
criminal trial. In the eyes of the Indian courts, they are fugitives from the law."

"Wilson has now pulled a similar maneuver to Anderson’s. For now, she has refused to return to Texas to serve her sentence. Instead, on Nov. 15 she began a search for Warren Anderson, to discuss their common fate and as she says to try to talk some sense into him."
DIANE WISON: "I’ve got criminal trespass and I’ve got five months in jail. And I imagine for refusing to go to jail, one time I kind of looked into it, and that they can definitely increase the penalties for my refusing to go to jail, so I could possibly be looking at a year’s jail time…."

"They do not want me out there talking, and I know even they talked with one of the plant managers down there and they said all she wants to do is talk about Bhopal. That is right and I will continually talk about it.

SANFORD LEWIS: So now instead of returning to Texas you are going to go on a hunt for Warren Anderson.

DIANE WILSON: I just decided to bring out the very blatant inequality between corporate crime and just little old blue collar crime like me like criminal trespass. As an ‘unreasonable woman’ I’m going to try to talk some sense into him.

LOIS MARIE GIBBS: Diane is absolutely right. You know this is a double standard in this country. People like Warren and corporate executives get away literally with murder, while someone like Diane who is standing up for her community, for her fisher people–that’s how they make a living–for the country. You know they are being chased by the police for speaking out and doing what America prides itself on–the freedom of speech, the freedom of expression.

In November 2005 concerned shareholders of Dow Chemical, led by New York pension funds, filed a formal resolution in advance of the May 2006 shareholder meeting asking the company to address its responsibilities for the Bhopal disaster. The resolution follows previous requests from the investment community, including formal request for an SEC investigation into misleading representations made by company officials about legal responsibilities and liabilities pending from the Bhopal disaster, dioxin contamination in Michigan, Agent Orange exposure among military veterans, and the pesticide Dursban. Stanford Lewis, the host of Corporate Watchdog Radio, authored the August letter to the SEC.

For information on student activism see: http://www.studentsforbhopal.org/

What are the chances that a Bhopal type accident could happen in the USA? Director of the toxics campaign for Greenpeace, Rick Hind, recalls the Texas City explosion that killed over 500 people in 1947. Because of the Bhopal tragedy in 1984, the USA Congress in 1986 asked for an inventory of hazardous risks and then in 1990 legislated Bhopal amendments to the Clean Air Act, requiring federal oversight over Risk Management Plans.

"We know that the chemical companies’ own self reporting indicates that there are 4,000 facilities in the USA that threaten more than 1,000 residents and workers," says Hind. "Approximately 100 of these threat

en a million people and the workers on site…. Every major city remains on those lists. And even according to Bush administration security experts, nothing has been done to reduce our vulnerability to this hazard since 9/11. And at least one top advisor says this should be our top priority over the next two years."

Chlorine is the major risk, but we know safer and more effective alternatives, not only for chlorine, but for amonia. Instead of reducing risks through alternative chemicals, "the industry is preferring higher fences, more guards, and meaner dogs," says Hind. Meanwhile, commonsense solutions such as alternative chemicals, reduced amounts, or relocations are being held up by the oil and chemical lobby that has essentially controlled both houses of Congress since 9/11.

For more info see the Greenpeace Toxics Campaign website.

Corporate Watchdog Radio: Show 5, "Christmas for Corporations" ; mp3 audio (move the play marker a little past half way).

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