Erin Brockovich. All photographs courtesy of Erin Brockovich.
A successful lawsuit which brought attention to contaminated drinking water in the mid-nineties, led to a film starring Julia Roberts, titled Erin Brockovich in 2000. It was the largest settlement ever in direct-action lawsuit in America. Brockovich continues to tackle head on environmental issues.
Interview by Erica Commisso.
An introduction…I am a passionate global activist, author, TV host, motivational speaker, a mother and grandmother.
What you do, in your own terms?
I try to share information and awareness to others who might not know or see what is going on, not only in their own neighborhoods, but throughout the United States. Oftentimes, we feel as if we are alone or that we might be the only one or few experiencing an issue in the environment. When we share and create awareness of our environmental perils, we are surprised to see that so many others are also affected. Environmental issues are everywhere. It crosses all barriers and when we see the magnitude of the issue and learn more we find the courage to stand up, stand strong and speak out. We need a #metoo environmental movement. We are very strong together.
How has your life influenced your activism?
I grew up in the midwest, in Lawrence, Kansas. My mother and father taught me that the greatest gifts we have are our health, water, land and family. I never forgot that, so remembering what really matters and what is important in all our lives, totally influenced and influences my activism. Without our planet, that sustains us all, well, we wouldn’t be. My mom was a journalist, so that helped with my activism (inquiring minds) and my father was an engineer, which helped in understanding water, infrastructure and how our systems work.
Currently watching/reading/listening to:
I try to stay up on current politics via news cycles. I read NYT, Washington Post and just read What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Attisha, a story of the Flint crisis. I just turned in my 4th book (it’s a good read), the TRUTH of American’s water supply (not out yet) but I mostly read the endless emails I get via my website and my Facebook page on all the issues going on in the country.
When you’re not working to save the environment, we can find you:
Ah, good question. At home, catching up on my life, playing with my animals and loving on my grandchildren.
What is a simple thing people can do in their lives to make a big difference in saving the environment?
Ask questions. We oftentimes don’t want to do that because we feel that our questions are silly or that someone may think we are crazy or get mad or that those questions will be suppressed so we just stop asking. Superman isn’t coming to save us or fix this for us, so inform yourself through questions, get involved in your community, look information up on the internet, research what you are finding and make an informed choice on what you can do about it. Most important, be persistent and don’t be afraid to speak out and share what is happening in your own backyard.
How does it feel to have a movie made about you?
This is a common question that I get, and I never have a good response other than “surreal.” It still seems unreal.
What does the word “sustainable” mean to you?
Were your parents, as an industrial engineer and a journalist, environmentally conscious or concerned about pollutants?
My father was! He sang to me daily about how valuable water was/is, that in my lifetime it would become scarce, that we could see water wars and that water would be more valuable than oil. He knew something that I couldn’t see at that time, but I do now. It’s a part of me, to my core.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to stand up to a corporation in the way you did?
Don’t let others convince you that what you see and what you experience isn’t real. I remember my work in Hinkley, California like it was yesterday and the corporation telling me that I wasn’t a scientist or a doctor or lawyer so what did I know? That always pissed me off. I didn’t have to be any of that to be a human and to know what I saw was wrong, so I spoke out and so can you.
It feels like your individuality and sense of self are very important to you. How does that help your advocacy?
If you don’t know and believe in yourself, get behind your choices and decisions and believe that what you are experiencing is real, then advocacy is hard. So often, someone will try and tell you, or convince you, that what you see and hear isn’t real… but you know because you believe in what you see and experience then you will stand strong. Once I have my information, facts and belief that I can do it, and that I can and will stand strong in my cause then I won’t back down or back away from my advocacy.
Tell us about the Community Health book. How did you come up with the idea?
It started with all the emails that I was and still am receiving. By way of example: I began to recognize that I was receiving individual emails from a specific town but that I was also receiving many other emails, from other individuals, from the same town, with the same issue. Because I am visual, I decided to start mapping all these inquiries onto a map. I have learned throughout my work that we don’t have a location to self-report and because we don’t, we miss data sets. Our disease and cancers are reported to data bases that cannot be shared, and therefore we don’t see the entire picture and miss a great deal of information and correlations between individuals reporting their cancers and the association to a chemical in the environment.
What has happened to Hinkley since the settlement?
I wouldn’t know where to begin. After this case, we had the same situation, same company and same contaminate in another town, Kettleman, California, which settled for 335 million. I still work in environment, especially water quality. I am very focused on building out community health book, I have been on the lecture circuit for 18 years, my 4thbook is coming out soon (a real look at Americas water supply) I have done several TV shows, working on a new TV series and the proud grandmother (they call me Gigi) of three and one more on the way.
Who is an eco warrior in your life (a person who inspires you, who you look up to)?
My friend and cohort, Bob Bowcock, founder of Integrated Resource Management. He is, by far, the most experienced expert, hardworking, giving of his time, follow through person in and on environmental issues that I know of. He is an eco warrior man and a great friend to us all!
Do you think awareness of environmental issues has increased over the years? Yes, it has increased but agencies are getting less and less involved and are less and less protective.
As more and more contamination of our water and land is exposed, more and more are affected, then more and more people become concerned, more people get involved and more speak out. It’s literally in all our backyards.
How are you an Eco Warrior?
I keep going. I don’t give up. It’s a message that will never will end. I am a warrior for the environment.
My mission is… Awareness, awareness, awareness and with that comes knowledge and then we rise.