Superman's Not Coming, One Year Later...
We Need This Message Now More Than Ever
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Last year, during a global pandemic and sandwiched between two political conventions, my newest book was published.
The book is now in hardback, paperback, kindle, and audio—all 362 pages and 500+ footnotes. I’m grateful for all the press the book received, including a great interview with Drew Barrymore on her show (you can watch a clip below).
It was a difficult time to release a book into the world, and a year later, it still feels like a strange time to celebrate. My heart goes out to all the communities featured in the book, and the many more who we continue to cover in this newsletter. I’ve always used my platform to help bring awareness and give a voice to those who need it.
This work has never been about me. Our county is cluttered with forgotten towns dealing with all kinds of toxic crises affecting the water, soil, and air, and these communities need our attention.
This newsletter continues to tell those stories, because there are so many stories to tell—and so many questions to help answer.
My inbox has been flooded since the movie came out in 2000, and I’ve done my best to answer as many calls for help as I can, but I’m just one person. I can’t possibly return every call and email that I receive, but I can offer as much encouragement and know-how to those who need it through this platform. We are working to build a community here and keep this conversation going, so that no one has to do this work on their own.
The idea that Superman’s not coming is a rallying cry to all communities in crisis. We’ve gotta be the ones to save ourselves. There is no magic fix. These issues are incredibly complicated and it takes a team of dedicated folks to respond and remediate.
The book gives all my best advice—everything I learned while in the field working with community members for almost 30 years. That’s right, my work in Hinkley, California, began in 1991, and it continues today.
We are all fighting an uphill battle right now. The stakes are high. Attention spans are low. It’s hard to get people to talk about and deal with water problems and toxic contaminants. This newsletter continues to cover as much news as we can and interview real people who are working to make the world better.
Our environmental policies have been seriously forgotten, rolled back, and de-prioritized, but these times are teaching us something too. We are waking up and realizing that the protections we thought were in place are not. The agencies we thought were looking out for us have been looking the other way.
Inaction by large, multi-national corporations to clean-up their messes or by regulatory agencies to do their jobs is causing huge health concerns for individuals and for the planet.
I got involved in Hinkley because I saw children suffering with terminal cancers, constant nosebleeds, and chronic fatigue. I got to know residents who were dealing with multiple miscarriages, Crohn’s disease, and many types of cancer. Today, these problems have only gotten worse as the pollution has spread and more people have been become sick because of it.
As we recognize the impacts on our water, our environment, and our health, we now have a window of opportunity to refocus our attention on the serious issues we face.
With more information and awareness, we can become more outspoken about what is happening in our backyards. As we begin to recognize the enormous limitations at the EPA, the failing infrastructures, and the tremendous burden of too many contaminated places, we must rise up town by town, city by city, and state by state. Together, we must speak out for the future and for change.
If you haven’t read the book, I suggest you read it as an entry point to understand this work and get started in your area. For those who have read it, thank you so much. In a world where there is so much going on—it takes courage and dedication to dive deep into what’s really happening.
One of the quotes we used in the book was from Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, astrophysicist, and author who said, “Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something.”
Listen to an excerpt from the book here.
Plastics Plant On Hold
Last week, in a win for residents of “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana (and activists everywhere who are up against Goliaths), the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers did their job and put a major project on pause.
The agency responsible for granting construction permits under the Clean Water Act, announced it would commission a full environmental impact statement for the proposed multibillion-dollar petrochemical facility, owned by Formosa Plastics.
This means the Army Corps will now analyze the public health, environmental, climate, environmental justice, and cultural impacts of what could become one of the world’s biggest plastic-making plants.
The slated site in St James Parish, Louisiana, sits in a heavily industrialized region between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, known to many as “Cancer Alley.”
“The Army Corps has finally heard our pleas and understands our pain. With God’s help, Formosa Plastics will soon pull out of our community,” said Sharon Lavigne in a statement. “Nobody took it upon themselves to speak for St. James Parish until we started working to stop Formosa Plastics. Now the world is watching this important victory for environmental justice.”
Lavigne is with RISE St. James and earlier this year was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work defending her community from petrochemical polluters.
For years, Lavigne and many other community members have campaigned against the construction of this massive petrochemical complex that would include 10 chemical manufacturing plants and numerous support facilities, spanning 2,500 acres, just one mile from an elementary school.
This is what progress looks like. This is what happens when We The People stand up for our communities.
Something you want to celebrate? Tell us in the comments below.