Diane Wilson, environmental activist against chemical pollution, to speak at Fairfield University Convocation Sept. 4


Diane Wilson, author of "An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas," will speak at Fairfield University's 2009 Fall Convocation, Friday, Sept. 4 at 10 a.m. on the Bellarmine Lawn.

"We are so fortunate to have Diane Wilson here to address our first-year students," said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J. "She is exemplary of the moral courage, the intellectual persistence and the care for the most vulnerable that are hallmarks of a Fairfield education. Her activism, guided and enlightened by a deep concern for truth, justice and the common good, should serve as a model for our students as they learn to grapple with the bio-diversity crisis and the need for sustainable manufacturing processes and social justice for workers and consumers."

A fourth-generation shrimper who began fishing the bays of the Gulf Coast of Texas at the age of eight and by 24 was a boat captain, Wilson read in a newspaper article in the late 1980s that Calhoun County was the number one toxic polluter in the country. Following this discovery Wilson became an activist and began to make others aware of toxins that Formosa Plastics dumped into the bay.

Wilson's book, which all incoming freshmen at Fairfield were given to read over the summer, describes her struggle as an environmental activist pitted against chemical companies responsible for pollution in Victoria and Jackson Counties in Texas. As a working class member of the fishing community, she worked to combat pollution, which had a devastating effect on the environment and the lives, livelihood, and health of people in her community.

One of the three areas the Fairfield University community has selected on which to focus major academic and cultural enrichment programming for the 2009-10 academic year is "Communities in Action: A Year of Activism," which aims to engage the entire campus in thinking about how a community can collectively work together to act upon the mission for social justice and commitment to diversity. "Diane's life and work seamlessly ties in with that project's goals, as well as Fairfield's commitment to a strong Jesuit education," said Dr. Chappell. The other two areas of focus will be Latin America: Images, Dialogue, and Action and Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," The R&J Project.

Wilson's work has won her a number of awards including the National Fisherman Magazine Award, Mother Jones's Hell Raiser of the Month, Louis Gibbs' Environmental Lifetime Award, Louisiana Environmental Action (LEAN) Environmental Award, Giraffe Project, Jenifer Altman Award, and the Bioneers Award.

While the Convocation is designed especially for first year students, the entire university community and the public are welcome to attend.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 26, 2009

Vol. 42, No. 32