Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Days like these

So, today, one of my students grumbled and said, "I thought I was signing up for a literature and film class, but there's so much activism." I said, "Well, what are you going to do? I didn't plan it this way. There's a revolution going on this semester. Everyone we're reading is on the streets marching. Are we going to sit in here and talk about their work, or get out there and join them?"
What was our reading and viewing list?  Starhawk, Bill McKibben, Terry Tempest Williams, Sandra Steingraber, Gasland, On the Beach, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry (and lots more).... I mean....  we had to go to Occupy and the Fracking and Tar Sands rallies and DC and NYC.  Most of my students were so fired up.  They went to Trenton on their own, and to the Tar Sands protest outside the white house on their own, and to the anti-nuke rallies on their own.
Another student--this was the real kicker, countered, "oh no, the activism has been great.  I am a Republican. This course woke me up and I can't go back to sleep. This is about saving the earth.  Environmentalism has nothing to do with political parties!  My husband doesn't recognize me anymore.  The people I talk to don't get it right away, but then they do once I explain it to them..." She's a volunteer fire woman who has been out there stomping against Fracking to the fire departments in Long Island.  When her fire chief said she couldn't talk about Fracking because it's "too political," she told him, "That's bull. When you guys talk Republican politics, that's not 'politics'?--but something environmental is too 'political'?  No way!"  Today, the fire was in her eyes....  
Maybe she's the next Erin Brockavitch.  I would not be surprised!
Days like these, I know I've found my calling.  I'm in love.
So, whoever said reading books or watching films has to be passive?  Many of the these writers and filmmakers I teach make you want to jump up and move the world.   Josh Fox, for example, has a way of making his viewers into activists.  I remember listening to him speak at a conference with a lot of flowery environmentalists who were waxing poetic about saving the earth, and he just said, "I think we need activism."  McKibben has jumped off his own page. So have writers like Noami Klein, Noami Woolf, Sandra Steingraber,  and others.  Reading Starhawk makes me cry.  These days her words in Fifth Sacred Thing are so deeply prescient.  May we come to build a village such as she envisions... Occupy has that loving utopian spirit. 
All I want to do is march, write, teach.  (oops, and be a mom, too)  


400 years later
a man with a camera
tells her 
to stop eating
to start eating 
to cover herself
to wear nothing 
to wear everything
to stop talking
to talk more
to wear make up
to wear no make up
to shrivel
to expand 
to work hard
to stop working
to clean
to clean better
to lay this way
to stop lying 
to hide at night
to come out
to hate herself
to feel nothing
He then ate her
He was looking for a feminist

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Victories....and then some leftovers

Some good things to be thankful for on the environmental front:

The US President put off the Tar Sands and the Keystone Pipeline XL decision--which Bill McKibben thinks will effectively kill the plan.  Thanks to the thousands who have worked tirelessly on this issue at and with 350.org, a major victory was won.  Thank you, in particular, to the leader on this one-- Bill McKibben (author of The End of Nature and Eaarth)--and thank you to all the activists!

The vote in Trenton, NJ, set to take place by the Delaware River Basin Commission on November 21, 2011, to allow for Fracking in the Delaware river region was postponed indefinitely-- thanks to the Delaware Governor Markell's letter of opposition to the commission stating that he would not vote in favor of the drilling.  New York was opposed as well.

For this amazing action--a huge thanks goes to to Josh Fox -- the brilliant filmmaker of Gasland and tireless activist, for alerting the American public to the dangers of hydraulic fracking and spearheading "fractavisim"!  Gasland is quite possibly the most important environmental film ever made--it has woken our nation up to the horrors of gas drilling and will save millions of lives.  Thanks, also, to all the impassioned activists who have joined this battle--including the actor Mark Ruffalo, writer and biologist Sandra Steingraber, Bill McKibben, and the thousands of other activists who worked and work to save the water and lives in our region!  The fight is not over yet, but we're on our way...

Fall, 2011, my Stony Brook students and all of us have experienced revolution in action--Occupy--energizing the environmental movement and changing the status quo.  Many of my students went to the rallies for Tar Sands, Anti-Nuclear power and weapons, Occupy and Fracking, and they have written letters to the politicians, called and protested, and spread the environmental word in a myriad of ways. In all my years of teaching, I have never seen such positive action...  It is so heartening to be teaching environmental literature and film at this time in history.

Marches, teach ins, sit ins in New York City and many cities throughout the U.S. have seen the revolution come alive. What the Occupy movement makes so clear: the sinking of our economy and the middle class, the growing rise in poverty, homelessness and hunger, the demise of our educational programs, the high cost and inaccessibility of medical benefits for so many, the destruction of our environment, and the lack of "community and connection"-- throughout the US, are systemic and interconnected crises.  Capitalism benefits the 1% and too many of the 99% are in desperate straits, including planet earth.  We've become nation of shoppers-- not creators, doers, thinkers, lovers, or good citizens.  All that is changing now.  Thank you to all the Occupiers who are working so hard, so joyously, and with love to build a more unified, healthy, and safe world and way of thinking for all!  Unfortunately, and very sadly, police and University officials in some rallies (such as NYC, U.C. Davis and Penn State, among others) have responded with violence.  This is horrific and unacceptable.

Fukushima and Nuclear Power/Radiation: the suffering and much denial continues in Japan by Tepco and the Japanese Government, and many Americans are clueless--we have 23 of the same nuclear plants here.  GE MARK 1.  Whistle blowers (engineers who worked for GE) Dale Bridenbaugh et al warned GE about the design flaws of the GE Mark 1 in the 1980s.  Just a few google searches and I learned this easily.  Why isn't the New York Times broadcasting this?   What are we waiting for?  Another accident here or elsewhere?   Why don't Americans know this?  Why are we not afraid right here in the U.S.A?

Notice how high cancer rates are since the 1950s.  What changed post WWII?  Two major industries were born and have taken root with a vengeance: chemical and nuclear. Since the mid-twentieth century, these industries have been producing and polluting a lethal combination of toxic materials.  Our government does not control them, they control our government.  Our bodies and planet are filled with this lethal combination of contamination and it continues to get worse.  No wonder we're all so sick.

The nuclear industry will tell you there is no factual basis for linking 'much' cancer to low level exposures to nuclear leaks, etc, but this is because they don't want you to connect the obvious dots.... of course lower level radiation causes cancer.   That is why we stopped giving x-rays except when they are absolutely necessary.  That is why we don't x-ray fetuses.  Epidemiologists, doctors, and scientists know this and have known this since the 1950s.  Read the seminal work and studies of Dr. Alice Stewart, Dr. Rosalie Bertel, Dr. Helen Caldicott, Barry Commoners, Linus Pauling, Joe Mangano, among many others.  The nuclear industry downplays the dangers of radiation leaks and exposures, double-speaks it, and creates doubt.  Doubt, as in the climate change debate, causes Americans to get very sleepy and confused--which is precisely what the nuclear industry wants.  Don't worry be happy.  'Clean nuclear energy', as in 'clean coal' is baloney.  Neither are clean!  Exactly how much radiation causes cancer, in whom, and when--is hard to prove, because scientists can't put people (or babies, children or pregnant women--who are the most vulnerable) in a laboratory and test them over the long term for low level exposures--so we don't have nice and neat peer reviewed studies on the subject to show the precise links.  Just because we don't have exact numbers, however, does NOT make nuclear safe.

The people in Fukushima and many areas of Japan right now are, therefore, guinea pigs. 

So, along with one of my heroes, Sandra Steingraber (author of Living Downstream), I'd rather that our children live in safety and precaution.  I'd rather be safe than sorry.  Animals can smell/sense danger--they don't need a data set or computer chart to prove to them their children are not safe.  Mothers and fathers smell it right now in Japan.  We need to heed this horrific event in Fukushima, take warning, and take action all over the world.

Stay tuned with the Safe Chemicals Act 2011, set to overhaul our chemical safety regulations in the US.  Legislation was introduced in April and November.  We'll see what the outcome is.  To learn more and lend your voice, read about the bill introduced by Senators Lautenberg, Schumer, Boxer, Klobucher, here.

My students did projects on food just before Thanksgiving.... timely, but now, how to eat or buy anything. I forked out $80 for a local turkey and I was told it walked around outside, ate healthy food, and had a somewhat acceptable life for a turkey while it lived.  Laugh, but watch a few movies on factory farming and you'll never feel the same way about eating meat again!  I think it is time to go back to being a vegetarian.

Noticing it is way too warm outside this holiday.  I like warm weather, but  New York at 70 degrees in  on Thanksgiving?   As the nun says in the Madeleine stories when she senses mischief is afoot, "something is not right."   Until last year, Thanksgiving was always frigid.  Climate Change.  Not good.

Tomorrow great environmental rally in NYC with all the big names speaking--Fox, McKibben, and Greg Palast....

Climate Day Rally. November 27 @NYC Washington Square, 2pm-5pm  
Followed by a march to Liberty Square
Investigative journalist Greg Palast will prosecute BP for ecocide.
Day will also feature speakers Josh Fox and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org

I'll be there...

Time to go for a hike!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How is my body like the land?

A man lies on top of 
drinking and digging
sinking himself
planting his seed
Andrew Marvell
  My America
John Donne
   our jewels
   island madness
John Smith
   virginia’s girl
   gold and Malinche
Our breasts are mountains
Our blood/sea
Our womb/garden
Our hymen/boulder

400 years later
Industrial woman/body
blood fills with cancer

--December, 2008

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Japanese Women As They Complete Their Sit-In In Tokyo

Aileen Mioko Smith sent me this photograph of the final moments of the protest this week in Tokyo.

Alieen writes that the people in the photo above are saying:

Women Don't Need Nuclear Power!
Women Will Protect the Children!
Women Will Change the World!

The wool ball at in the center of the circle was woven by Fukushima women. It got so
long they encircled METI with it. Then women from all of Japan
continued to weave it until it became a huge ball. On the last day it was
changed into the earth and was born at 10:30am, Saturday, November 5th, 2011.
It is now traveling around Japan and will circle
the entire earth.

You can read more about the protest here.

In addition: please sign the petition to save the children of Fukushima.  The mothers want the Japanese government to evacuate the children from dangerous areas of Fukushima city.  Please help them by signing on.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Delivering the Petition to the Japanese consulate in NYC--Stop Spreading the Contaminated Rubble

Oh the things we can do.  I stood there with a bull horn on the streets of NYC saying that the children of Fukushima need to be evacuated and the transporting, burning and dumping of contaminated waste into Tokyo Bay must be halted.  I've never imagined doing such a thing before, but it sure felt right.  Right on the steps of the Japanese Consulate!

Tomoi Zeimer, Priscilla Star and I went up to the offices of the Japanese consulate on 49th and Park, but they would only listen to us in the hallway. Two male "robots" as Tomoi called them, stared at us while we read the petition to stop spreading the contaminated rubble.  Then I launched in on why the children need to be evacuated beyond the twelve mile limit and how children are so much more vulnerable to getting cancer than men --and the standard by which "acceeptable" levels are determined are based on adult male bodies.  What craziness.  A fetus is far more susceptible and vulnerable to the dangers of radiation than a grown man.  Who thinks these things up?  I'm no medical genius, but these pregnant women and little kids and babies must be protected... Seems more than obvious.

Well, the Japanese male robots who work for the consulate just stood there.  They were expressionless.  They would have let us speak for hours.  I don't even know if they speak English.  They uttered no words.

A Japanese news station filmed us.  Bianca Jagger has delivered her petition in London.  Kim Roberson is delivering the petition in San Francisco on Nov. 7  at the Japanese Consulate, 50 Fremont St., San Francisco, at 9:30 am.  A bunch of people all over the world are doing the same.  You can see a short film of our afternoon here:


Here is a great video of the Japanese women who are protesting right now for their children in Tokyo.  There are sit-ins and peaceful protests taking place.  Watch here:


Breaking News:  This just in From Kim Roberson who delivered the petition today in San Francisco:

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the delay but I was sending our press release to the AP desk here in SF and following up with more info to the news station who filmed us this morning.  I am assured that they will cover the story tonight on the news, and possibly a further story soon.  Hopefully the AP will pick this up as a national story since FFAN was hard at work today on both coasts, with one group in SF presenting Tomoi's petition, plus Diane D'Arrigo and Cindy Foulkers presenting letters to Senator Feinstein and Boxer's top aides during meetings in DC.  This happened almost simulataneously, PLUS Tomoi was being interviewed on local radio here.  It felt synergistic for sure, in a good way!

Some details of our meeting, Tomoi your petition was presented this morning to Mr Iwata, Consul at the Japanese Consulate office.  The experience was one that none of us here will ever forget.  Mr. Iwata was very cordial and invited us into a room which had three men lining one wall and one man sitting next to him.  Present also were activists Leslie de Taillandie, activist and author Cecile Pineda, activist and artist Kafre James, activist and artist Rachel Gertrude Johnson, activist and filmmaker Marybeth Brangan and yours truly were all present (Jim Heddle interviewed us all however was not given a pass into the meeting).  I'll write in more detail soon of the actual exchanges but suffice to say that Mr. Iwata at one point had to force back tears as he spoke of his grandfather who, at 92, survived the earthquake however died in the tsunami.  Rachel printed the petition in beautiful blue parchment paper and tied with a string and two yellow rose buds. We also delivered 18 yellow roses and 10 large sunflowers.  We conveyed our condolences but were also firm in telling Mr. Iwata that the incineration will prove to be disasterous.  He told us that he will contact the Tokyo office to convey our concerns.
My son is pretty active right now, need to go, but hope at least that this at least gives you an idea of our day. 
take care,


Mama power!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Save the children of Japan from radiation- Worldwide petition led by Bianca Jagger

New York City, NY - An international event is taking place on Wednesday November 2 , 2011. A
petition is being presented to Japanese Consulates and Embassies worldwide.

Remember Tomoi Zeimer and her beautiful baby whom I blogged about a little while ago?  She's been working on her petition to stop the shipping of contaminated rubble to Tokyo (and burning and dumping it in Tokyo Bay).  The petition also appeals to the Japanese goverment to protect the children of Japan by evacuating them from highly radioactive areas. 

So, tomorrow,  November 2, 2011, Tomoi Zeimer, Priscilla Star and I are going to deliver this petition to the Japanese Consulate in NYC.  Bianca Jagger, Founder and Chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, has lent her support and endorsement, and she's hand-delivering the petition in London, to the Embassy of Japan at 101-104 Piccadilly.

A group of powerful women in San Francisco, led by Kim Roberson, will be delivering the petition and protesting there as well.

Other cities participating include Paris, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Munich, Osaka, Washington DC.

The nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has poisoned the air, food supply, soil and
water. Small children have been tested and found to be contaminated with radiation. The Japanese
Government has not evacuated these children, instead they have the raised the limits of exposure. The
petition also addresses the spread of radioactive contamination. Tokyo has officially agreed to accept
500,000 tons of radioactive disaster rubble. In a matter of days the first shipment of 1,000 tons of
radioactive rubble will be delivered to Tokyo to be burned and dumped into the Tokyo Bay.

The world must insist the Japanese government protect the people, not the corporation TEPCO. Two academic journal reports released this month find that the radiation fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident is bigger than that reported by the Japanese government and up to 30 times the amount stated by TEPCO.

In New York City the petition will be delivered to the Consulate-General of Japan at 3pm, located at
299 Park Ave, New York, NY. A peaceful sit-in will take place in front of the building from 11AM to

New York City residents greatly concerned about the Indian Point nuclear plant which is located
only 25 miles from the Big Apple will also be in attendance. Residents have voiced concerns about the
accident prone facility and the similarities between TEPCO and the Entergy Corporation in regard to
irresponsible management and the failure to meet required safety measures. Legal contentions against
Entergy have been filed in New York State regarding the relicensing of the aging plant for 20 years
beyond its engineered life.  More information is available at the official website for the cause: ShutDownIndianPointNow.org 

About the organizer of this event - One World No Nukes:  “Through the arts, we aim to raise
awareness regarding the devastation in Fukushima and the ongoing effects of radiation throughout
Japan and the world. Our efforts include art exhibitions, screenings, lectures and performing arts.”