Our guest blogger is consumer advocate Erin Brockovich.
To bring about change, the most important thing is information. If the issue is pesticides, then find out and isolate who in your area is using them and for what purpose. If it’s on a large enough scale to affect the community, are there airplanes spraying overhead? Pick up a phone. The Freedom of Information Act gives you access to records. Go to your county department of records, find out who’s doing it, what they’re using, what its effects are. Lots of times there’s a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). I know it sounds like a lot, but there’s always one angry mom in the group who’s willing to do the research.
It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with public agencies, Congress, neighbors: If you go into a tirade without facts, it will fall on deaf ears. (If you don’t like to speak publicly, work with someone who can; none of us is ever a lone warrior.) But when you have documents, when you can say, “This is poison being sprayed… Look at how often they’re spraying…” People are masters at making connections. Oh, my god, my daughter has been acting like that, too. As soon as it hits home, as soon as it’s about parent and child and neighborhood, people spring into action.
First, though, you need to make the connection. I’m an advocate for common sense. If an exterminator uses a chemical that makes a spider drop dead right in front of you, what’s its effect on a child? Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to say, I don’t want you to do that. As the mom, the one who knows her children better than anyone, rely on your gut instinct. I’ll argue with doctors if they say something I know is not true about my child.
When you have questions, I believe it’s your human barometer working for you. I frequently lecture about how social intimidation and peer pressure can take away our common sense, make us back away from our gut feelings. It happened to me. They said, “What do you know about science? You don’t have a Ph.D., you’re not a lawyer, why should we listen to you?” Why? Because there’s a lot that I do know, that we all know. I was born in Kansas and when I see a tornado, I don’t need to call an expert to know I should run. When I see a poison, when I know what I’m feeling and seeing, don’t tell me otherwise.
You need stick-to-it-iveness. I did two seasons of a television series focusing on women who never stopped or gave up on their cause. The things you think will get results and work out, won’t; so you have to keep coming back and coming back. They say you catch more flies with honey, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
And then you have to listen to people — honestly, without preconceptions. One mistake I made that I vowed never to do again: Do not disregard what anyone says to you, even if it sounds ludicrous. When you think you know everything, you don’t open yourself up. People told me bizarre things that happened to them and their animals when they were exposed, and I didn’t believe them at first. I would think, Are you on acid? They would tell me they had cancer and I was thinking, “How can you have cancer when you look so well? No, that can’t happen, that doesn’t happen.”
Only it turns out it can, and it does. So don’t be deceived because you can’t see something. No one knows you but you. A child can be stung by a bee a hundred times and it doesn’t bother him, and the next time it does; or another kid is affected on the very first sting. Everyone is different. Don’t ever get too certain about what you think is true.
Taken from Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home. Reprinted by arrangement with Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2009 by Healthy Child Healthy World.
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