make four barrels of toxic waste. So if the pesticides are only poisoning our air, water, and food, causing birth defects in our children, not even having an effect on the bugs, and they’re making four barrels of toxic waste to dump in your backyards, what’s the sense of making all the pesticides? You’ve got to ban lots and lots of the pesticides. “Plans. We’ve got to have new laws that force corporations to come up with toxic waste reduction plans. Very simple concept. The research arm of Congress, the Office of Technology Assessment, has done study ‘after study, now points out that firms can stop producing half of the toxic waste with today’s technology. We just put some laws into effect that make them do that. Technology’s setting on the shelf, collecting dust. “Now, the real hard part is putting those solutions into practice. As you folks taught . us during the civil rights movement, we got to walk our talk. It’s not enough to just say it. You got to get out there and, in a peaceful and democratic way, you’ve got to push these decisionmakers to get those reasonable solutions into practice. Solutions, I might add, that are good for people and good for business. But they don’t want to invest in those changes, and we’ve got to force them. We’ve got to pressure them, democratically and nonviolently. “We talk about three forms of action that we’ve got to take. First, local action. We believe the heart of this problem is to organize. Local organizing. We say that if corporations have the privilege, under law, to poison us, which they do, we say if they have the right to chemically trespass into your neighborhood with killer chemicals, which they do, we say the citizens ought to have rights. Got the right to know what those chemicals are. We should have the right to inspect those facilities. O’Connor suggested an effort to “get the corporations to sign what I call a goodneighbor agreement.” Rather than waiting Women in the Movement LOIS GIBBS, who runs Citizens’ Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, contends that 75 percent of the people in today’s environmental movement are women. “But that’s going to change,” Susan Dewan of Massachusetts said. “More men are getting into the movement.” In the meantime, women activists lead more stressful lives, on the average, than do their male counterparts. The reasons they join the movement to protect their families, their children remain their responsibility. This means that, generally, they increase their workload more than if instead they were taking on an income-generating outside job… Patty Frase, for instance, of the Environmental Congress of Arkansas, usually has only Sundays if she’s home for family leisure activities. These days she and her husband Tommy. take their Sunday afternoons with their church’s basketball team. How does she manage ? “Stressfully,” said Frase with a laugh. “It’s rough. . . . Beverly Pierce and I started ‘this back in 1981 in Jacksonville [Arkansas, where Agent Orange was manufactured]. I didn’t have any children at the time I started.” Now she has a three-year-old girl. “I tell you, this poor child has been in every town in Arkansas!” she said. “I just take her with me. On weekend events, if it’s no more than once a month, I leave her at home with Tommy. Baby-sitting is probably one of our biggest expenses. We aren’t funded, so I’m forced to take her. “When I know I’m going to a real nasty, nasty place a Superfund site I’ll do everything I can to find a babysitter, because I don’t take her to those places. She’s never been to a Superfund site. “So you have to juggle everything. I did have a’ job when I started this, but there were too many pressures, people telling me to be quiet.” Marian Urquilla, who works with Youth Action out of Washington, D.C., has observed the stresses on married women in the movement. “Some women are very lucky and are married to men who really support their work and understand that it’s part of being a mother to them. It really is. It’s taking care of your child in a real way. So a lot of women really suffer with it, and it’s just a matter of making choices, and it’s day to day. But I think women are really good about supporting each other and talking about it.” Why are so many women in the . movement? “Most of them have no choice,” said Susan Dewan as she, with her husband, writer Dick Russell, marched in the rain in Texarkana. “Most of them have been poisoned, and their children have been poisoned, their relatives have been poisoned, and they have been robbed of their dream and of their future. And they’re furious! Most of them feel violated. They feel violated by the polluters and they feel violated by their government who has not helped them and not protected them, not protected their children, and not protected their right to have a future. “And they don’t ask for much. They only ask for the right to live and raise their children. That’s all! And love their families. They’re not ambitious women. They’re only in it to fight for their lives. “The way they handle their situations is with great difficulty. Money for babysitters, money to pay the phone bills I mean, it is hard. It’s so hard on these grassroots people. “I have two boys. My oldest is 25, but my youngest is 13. I don’t have the problems with childcare that, say, Patty [Frase] has. Patty’s got little kids. I have a big family. I’m very lucky. I’m very lucky. But because I am lucky, and I have certain freedom that somebody like Patty or Lauri Maddy don’t have, I feel like I will help them more. And that’s what I do. I will give them, out of the leisure and the free time I have, I will help them in their struggle. So it doesn’t matter to me where it is, wherever people are being hurt, I mean, people should be there. “More and more women are becoming activists, because they have to take matters into their own hands. They are not being protected by their politicians, by the government itself. And the special stresses, if you have a women who is married and is a grassroots leaders, it’s not either/or, she has to balance all of these things. “She can’t abandon her husband. She can’t abandon her home, her own life, and the other responsibilities that she has. So what she does, she adds more into her life, stretches herself thin, and it is a very difficult balancing act that a lot of women have, real problems after a while with the stress of living this kind of a life. “The kind of stress that I feel is because things move too slow, you know. The agony of people in communities like this, not being attended to.” Does she consider herself an environmentalist? “I certainly don’t! I don’t believe in environmental issues. I believe in life = and death. I don’t believe in issues. I believe in people, and I love life. You know, I think, when you get into issues, it complicates matters. It compartmentalizes things, and it keeps people from each other. I mean, why do we have to look at things as black people and white people? You know? It’s oppressed and oppressors.” J.P. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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