An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers Politicos Polluters and The Fight For Seadrift, Texas
Diane Wilson may hail from Texas, but An Unreasonable Woman, which takes the reader from the Gulf Coast to Taiwan and back, is no tall tale. In 1989, Wilson, a shrimper and mother of five, read a newspaper article reporting that her native Calhoun County (pop. 15,000) was the most polluted county in the nation. When she started inquiring about the chemicals being dumped into her beloved San Antonio Bay, getting the cold shoulder from government officials and the polluters only made Wilson more determined.
The book chronicles three years of Wilson's fight against chemical dumping by Taiwanese firm Formosa Plastics, while the company proposed to build a $1 billion facility in the area. Detailing corruption, death threats, lawsuits, worker intimidation and even attempts on Wilson's life, An Unreasonable Woman reads like a fast-paced political novel, and you almost can't believe it's real. Particularly angering is the chapter about Wilson's discovering that the Environmental Protection Agency knows about Formosa's illegal dumping, but won't prosecute – despite the fact that many of the chemicals are carcinogenic. (The book also notes that four counties along the Texas Gulf Coast have much higher rates of lung cancer than the rest of the nation.)
Wilson creates a memorable cast of characters that include friends, family, local politicos and environmental activists. Her writing is as captivating as the events that shaped the book: You can almost smell the waterfront, see the chemical clouds rising from the towers on the horizon, and hear the truck brakes squeal when one of the local fishermen is on the run from game wardens. You want to cheer her successes and cry for her defeats; her marriage is a casualty of her activism.
Despite all, Wilson absolutely will not give up. When she can't get hearings, she takes her protests to the streets. When she can't get legislators to return her calls, she befriends reporters. When her pro bono attorney tells her she should quit, she goes on a hunger strike. And she does all of this, amazingly, while being the primary caregiver of her five children.
Since negotiating agreements with Formosa, Wilson has become a self-described "radicalized woman," staging hunger strikes and other acts of civil disobedience all over the country. Whether fighting for justice of chemical plant leaks in Bhopal, India or calling for an end to the war in Iraq, Wilson's courage is an inspiration for anyone who believes in social justice.