My personal experience with Dow Chemical

My name is Diane Wilson. In 2006, I received ethecon’s first International ethecon Blue Planet Award. In 2014, Dow is being awarded the International ethecon Black Planet Award for their scandalous and callous treatment of the Earth’s resources and its people. This award gives me great hope that justice does prevail and in particular, Dow’s crimes will not be forgotten.

I am a commercial fisherwoman from Texas and Union Carbide (now Dow) has existed outside my fishing village of Seadrift since I was born. I am 65. That’s a lot of years. I never knew about Bhopal until the day Union Carbide blew up near my hometown. The year was 1990. That’s when I first heard the word Bhopal.
I arrived in India exactly eight years after a very bad day. That day was December 4, 1984. Bhopal was the scene of world’s worst environmental disaster and I had arrived in India without a full understanding of what I was doing there. Yes, I understood that there was a Union Carbide plant in my backyard and one in Bhopal’s back yard. Was I here to be a witness to the horror that had happened in Bhopal? Witnessing is a real legitimate reason for being somewhere. But there were two billion witnesses here already! And all much better then me!
Permanent People’s tribunal on human rights and industrial hazards. That was it. ... it was a people’s statement that came from their experience of being forced to live with the consequences of industrial hazards and it was very very fitting that the tribunal was talking place near the heart of industry’s greatest darkness: Bhopal, India.
Every morning all of us delegates hopped a dusty bus from a rambling hotel and took a ride to an enormous beige conference center where huge black and white pictures of Gandhi hung on every wall and rioting bougainvillea spilled into the streets, up and down pathways, and over towering trellises. ...

Things changed on the sixth morning. Oh, we had our dusty ride on the crowded bus, all right, but that morning a tiny man in white shirt and shorts chased the bus down the road. He was hollering something with a high British accent and he was so close to the bus that it sounded like he was hollering right in my ear. I was taking it a little personal so I turned at the open bus window that was scoured with dirt and grime and a million fingerprints on the bottom half, but from the top half I could see him just fine. At that exact moment he decided to leap. For a second I thought he was going to bop me on the nose with his hand but instead, a knotted handkerchief flew through the window and hit me in the head. A white, neatly knotted handkerchief tumbled into my lap. I sat a moment, fingering the place on my head where the handkerchief had hit, and then I swung around to find that little man.
The man was standing stock still in the middle of the dusty road and getting smaller by the second. I whirled around to see if anyone had noticed my brief moment with the jumping man. Apparently not; it was just him and me in a brief one-on-one. So I unknotted the handkerchief, smoothed out the four corners, and then I flipped over what looked like a stack of photos. There were ten black and white photos of ten dead babies lying on white sheets smeared with blood. The babies were young. Very young. Maybe they were newborns. I looked closer.

Did my babies look like that when they were born? Were they ever that small? Who were these babies and why were they so bloody?

I looked around the bus and showed the pictures to a woman sitting next to me. There was a long silence. The woman turned her head and refused to look at the pictures.
Finally, a man leaned across the seat from me and said that the night of the poison gas, women lost their unborn children as they ran. Their wombs spontaneously opened in bloody abortions. “These are those unborn babies,” he said. “They are the lucky ones.“

I found out soon enough who were the unlucky ones. They were sitting beside me in the conference center, sometimes filling the aisles and the hallways, and almost always, sitting on the steps when I went inside. They wore bandages and scarves around their heads and covering their eyes, but the ones with charred lungs and poisoned kidneys had no bandages. They simply pulled their shirts, scarves, and shawls tight around their bodies and resigned themselves to misery while, I supposed, the bureaucrats and corporate dogs fattened themselves on skullduggery and dirty deals.

I didn’t leave India lightly because there was no forgetting those babies. I felt like I had been hit with a train or maybe that old man in the white shirt and shorts had hit me in the head harder than I thought. I didn’t know for sure. All I knew was that those dead babies with their frail arms flung across the white sheets seemed a whole lot like my own sleeping babies in their cribs at night and when I got back to Texas, their tiny fists pounded me in my dreams and railed against me forgetting. I will never forget. Those ten dead babies are permanently branded in my brain. My thoughts and heart is forever with the survivors of Bhopal and the 25,000 who died. You will not be forgotten.
One of the most telling is probably in 2001 when the Public Relations officer of Dow at the Seadrift plant, speaking in regards to the miserly amount of money that Bhopal survivors were paid, said that 500 dollars was ‘good enough’ for an Indian.
Dow obviously tries to stamp out anything or anyone that dares to bring their crimes into the light. Bur their crimes will be broadcasted across this globe. I am so very glad to be able to tell my story about Dow and so very grateful for ethecon in their unending quest to make corporate individuals accountable for their crimes against humanity and this planet.

Diane Wilson
Seadrift, Texas

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