Last fall, at the Bioneers 2001 Conference, Diane Wilson concluded her plenary by saying that she felt her story reflected the power of being an "unreasonable woman." As a fourth-generation shrimper from the Texas Gulf Coast, Diane discovered that her tiny county was the most polluted in the country. The dolphin die-offs, decreased fish catches, and increasing human disease in her community suddenly made sense. She got fighting mad. Since then, Diane has engaged in successful campaigns and direct actions -- including lengthy hunger strikes and almost sinking her shrimp boat -- to get huge chemical companies, including Formosa Plastics and Alcoa Aluminum, to sign zero discharge agreements. Her perseverance and determination paid off: both companies have since signed agreements and radically decreased their emissions (though not nearly as much as they promised.)
Diane has long maintained that anyone can do what she's done. Without any special training, she?s taken on changing the behavior of multinational corporations, and won. Near the end of her talk, Diane noted that "A reasonable woman adapts to the world. An unreasonable woman makes the world adapt to her. So I urge all you women out there to be unreasonable!" After all, look where reason has gotten us.
Diane had a vision at Bioneers. All weekend, she said, she had been approached by women tearfully thanking her for what she'd said about being unreasonable. Her vision: a collective movement of Unreasonable Women.
Formally initiated in May 2002, the project launched with a four-day retreat which gathered 34 extraordinary women and leading thinkers, grass-roots activists, authors, scientists, artists, attorneys, journalists, publishers, philanthropists and community leaders and from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Sharing their individual experiences across a wide range of disciplines, the participants addressed the urgent need for a unified environmental and social change movement that will inspire women from all race and class backgrounds to engage in effective action. Regardless of how successful each had previously been in their respective efforts, all of the participants spoke of their profound feelings of isolation. During the group's time together, relationships among the participants developed so strongly that most left feeling a new level of community and support for their work.
Since the retreat, the group has had the opportunity to move from the theoretical realm into action. In solidarity with protestors in Bhopal, Diane Wilson has undertaken a hunger strike in Seadrift, Texas, to protest against Dow Chemical, now the owner of Union Carbide. On July 18, Diane announced her hunger strike to the group. In the past, her actions have been solitary and she has achieved the impact she has based upon fierce will, passion and determination. This time, she not only has the support of the UnReasonable Women founding group, but also is networked via email with activists in London and Bhopal.
Immediately and spontaneously, the founding group rallied with offerings of support. Each member has stepped up to contribute the skills, community, resources and networks to which they have access. Throughout the action and hunger strike, which lasted 30 days, the difference this group has made has been astonishing. For example, journalists have written press releases, articles, op-ed pieces, and conducted radio interviews with Diane. Philanthropists have contributed money. Direct action strategists developed media plans and communications strategies. A relay team of women travelers to Texas spontaneously emerged to spend time caring for Diane, and supporting the impact and effectiveness of her action. Bioneers posted an action alert on its Web site, and is contacting its mailing list to catalyze telephone calls to Dow Chemical Corporation, media outreach, and other actions. Caroline Casey broadcast two Visionary Activist radio shows from the site, historically relinking Pacifica stations KPFT and KPFA to collaborate on the broadcasts.
Since then, Diane has engaged in an action chaining herself to a tower in Dow Chemical's plant, has traveled to the east coast, where, in collaboration with other UnReasonable Women, she demonstrated on Warren Anderson's lawn (the ex-ceo of Union Carbide, responsible for the Bhopal tragedy), was interviewed on
Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! and has been photographed with UnReasonable Woman Medea Benjamin protesting at a press event held by Donald Rumsfeld paving the way for war on Iraq, a photograph that found its way to the front page of many of the nation's daily newspapers.
Diane Wilson, mother of five and a fourth-generation fisherman on the Texas Gulf Coast, has used civil disobedience to fight such chemical giants as Union Carbide and Dupont. In l995 she won "zero discharge" agreements from Formosa Plastics, one of the largest producers of PVC in the world, and Alcoa Aluminum, among the nation's largest polluters, byconducting three hunger strikes and attempting to sink her shrimp boat ontop of a wastewater discharge pipe. Currently involved in research to testVietnamese and Hispanic fishermen for endocrine disrupters, heavymetals, and PCB's, and efforts to launch zero discharge as a movement within the US and abroad, she has won numerous awards from both the environmental and fishing communities.