I’ve been a big fan of Sandra Steingraber ever since reading her book Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, a beautiful, resonating, and timely book. I was doubly fortunate to have the opportunity to interview the biologist and poet for Terrain.org’s 20th issue [read interview]. And then I finally met Sandra, and her exuberant son, when I attended the Wildbranch Writing Workshop back in 2008.
She is as beautiful, passionate, and concerned in person as she is in her writing and interviews. That is, she is a real person working hard to raise a family while raising our consciousness about the dubious impacts of chemicals on the environment and our bodies.
In 1997, she published Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment, in which she travels from hospital waiting rooms to hazardous waste sites and from farmhouse kitchens to incinerator hearings, bringing to life stories of communities in her hometown and around the country as they confront decades of industrial and agricultural recklessness — including her own cancer in her twenties. Now in its second edition, Living Downstream offers updated, meticulously researched science that strengthens the case for banning poisons so pervasive in our air, food, and bodies. Because synthetic chemicals linked to cancer come mostly from petroleum and coal, Sandra shows that investing in green energy also helps prevent cancer. Saving the planet becomes a matter of saving ourselves and an issue of human rights.
One of Sandra’s goals soon after publishing the book was bringing its lyrical and critical message to a wider audience through film. After a decade of work, the Living Downstream feature-length documentary, produced by The People’s Picture Company, is now available for film festival and theatrical screening. Learn more about the film here, and watch the trailer below:
Interested in learning more? Then advocate for a screening of the film near you.
And also tune into Sandra Steingraber’s Weekly Essays, published on the Living Downstream website and the Huffington Post. There you’ll find eloquent essays such as “Life After Cancer — The Identity That Has No Name” and “Earth Day — The View from the F Terminal.”
As advocates for environmental and cultural consciousness and equity, we have a lot vying for our attention. If you’re keeping a list, put Sandra Steingraber on top — your attention will be well-placed and well-rewarded.