FaCT Newsletters

What Can We Learn from Dark Waters?

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As a lifelong Ohio resident and as a community organizer concerned about people and nature this film haunts me every time I watch it. Watching it with FaCt members on April 13 was no different.

The film depicts the case taken on by Cincinnati attorney, Rob Billot, representing local community members in West Virginia against the DuPont Corporation for poisoning the people, the animals, the Ohio River, the air and the soil with toxic chemicals, specifically C8, used in the production of Teflon cookware.

The film shows us not only sick and dead animals, but sick and dying humans, children with birth defects, rotted teeth and lots of cancer. It also shows us how the current legal system and environmental “protection” bureaucracy actually permits the harms and protects the corporations, in this case DuPont. They knowingly poisoned the entire ecosystem and generations of people all for the sake of profits. The system continues to work this way, even though after decades in the courts, Billot could claim a legal “victory” for making DuPont pay some of the families harmed by their actions.

What many people don’t realize is that this is similar to the Erin Brockovich story of Hinkley, California and the Steve Donzinger case against Chevron in the Amazon in Ecuador. After a few checks are written, no one bothers to follow up to notice that Hinckley, California is still being polluted by PGE, the Amazon is still being contaiminated by Chevron and people in West Virginia and Ohio are still being poisoned by DuPont.

We have a much larger systemic issue that is never addressed case after case.

After more than a decade of working with communities who really want to prohibit the harms and change the system, I have come to realize that we need to first be honest with ourselves about the failure of current environmental laws and regulations so that we can start to envision a new system. A system that recognizes that we humans are nature and that what we do to nature we do to ourselves.

You can learn more by visiting celf.org

Tish O'Dell is Consulting Director at CELDF and a Board member of Ohio Community Rights Network.


A non-profit dedicated to highlighting the impact of climate change and other environmental issues in the Ohio region and beyond.

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