Episode 13 – Water – Rob Bilott and Erin Brockovich

Listen on Spotify / Apple / Anchor / scroll down for our podcast player!

We’re diving headfirst into 2021 with the first installment of our ‘Elements’ series!

This week we’re talking about water pollution from the perspective of two unexpected activists: corporate environmental lawyer Rob Bilott and author/advocate/multi-hyphenate Erin Brockovich. Olivia tells the story of a cattle farmer and small community that, with the help of Bilott, sued DuPont for PFOA water pollution. Elise tells the now-iconic story of Erin as a young legal clerk on a case in Hinkley, California against PG&E, and shares insights from Brockovich’s recent book on the water crisis.

Story #1: Rob Bilott and DuPont’s PFOA Pollution (Olivia)
Rob Bilott on land owned by the Tennants near Parkersburg, W.Va. (Credit Bryan Schutmaat for The New York Times)

Sources:
The Devil We Know 2018 documentary, directed by Stephanie Soechtig (also directed Tapped and Fed Up, and an EP on Knock Down the House) and Jeremy Seifert (GMO OMG, dumpster diving)
The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare by Nathaniel Rich for the New York Times, January 6, 2016
The movie Dark Waters also exists if you want to see Rob Bilott played by Mark Ruffalo 🙂

If you’re confused about exactly falls under the PFAS category, don’t worry, so are we! This tree and explanation really helped us break everything down.

We also talked about Biden’s climate justice plan, which mentions toxic chemicals in water including PFAS. If you word search for “PFAS” or “toxic” or simply “water,” you’ll find some of his promises. An important one:

“Instead of making empty promises with no follow-through, Biden will tackle PFAS pollution by designating PFAS as a hazardous substance, setting enforceable limits for PFAS in the Safe Drinking Water Act, prioritizing substitutes through procurement, and accelerating toxicity studies and research on PFAS. In addition, Biden will accelerate the process to test for and address the presence of lead in drinking water and housing, in line with the CDC’s determination and in partnership with labor, and state, local, and tribal governments. Biden will also help protect rural communities from water and air pollution and make water bills affordable for low-income communities, rural Americans, and tribes through targeted state revolving funds and Rural Utility Service funding for disadvantaged communities.”

The Biden Plan to Secure Environmental Justice and Equitable Economic Opportunity

Now let’s make sure that promise is kept!

Story #2: Erin Brockovich (Elise)
CREDIT: JONO SEARLE/EPA-EFE/SHUTTERSTOCK via PEOPLE

Sources:
Erin Brockovich’s website
California Water Boards – PG&E
Map of Hinkley Water Contamination from California Water Boards (I didn’t specifically reference this, but it’s cool to see)
EPA page on Chromium 6
SFGate, PG&E To Pay $333 Million In Pollution Suit
Treehugger, Health Risks Of Chromium 6
CNBC, July 21, 2008, Erin Brockovich: Did The Movie Get It Right?
PublicIntegrity.org, How Industry Scientists Stalled Action On Carcinogen
Green Global Travel, Meet The Real Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich via Biogrophy.com
Hinkley, CA Wikipedia

One of Erin’s big projects at the moment is the website communityhealthbook.com. As the site says, “Erin Brockovich’s Community Healthbook enables you and your community to post and share information about environmental, medical, and pharmaceutical drug issues in your own backyard.” Check it out, submit any issues you may have, and sign up to be notified when the map is ready!

We love Erin Brockovich’s episode of Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness if you want to get fired up about your water.

If you haven’t quite had your fill of Erin Brockovich and Rob Bilott, luckily Rob Bilott was a recent guest on Erin Brockovich’s podcast Superman’s Not Coming if you want to hear a firsthand discussion between them. Listen here: The Lawyer Who Took On DuPont.

If you want to listen to Superman’s Not Coming while supporting your local bookstores, check out LibroFM. We have a referral link + code if you’d like your first credit free (and to help us read more books too): Libro.fm referral link or enter this code: lfm185500

The Dump

Olivia told us about her graduate projects, including a fake documentary about the politics of compost (yes that’s a thing) in New York City. Specifically, we mentioned Save Our Compost and the Bushwick composter BK Rot. Save Our Compost’s linktree is a great way to keep up with the latest petitions and news, especially related to Big Reuse and LES Ecology Center.

Unsexy solutions to climate change are so interesting! Sometimes the most exciting projects aren’t actually the most effective, and sometimes it’s the literal dirt that can make the biggest change. This episode of How To Save A Planet on regenerative farming was very thought provoking.

Also, GIANT ARCTIC ICE CUBES. This Forbes article about ice making submarines brings up so many interesting points about the concerns and benefits of approaching the disappearance of ice sheets in this way.

We mention refrigerants as a major source of warming – here’s some info from Drawdown and definitely let us know if this is something you’d like to get into in greater depth.

The new Instagram account @isthegrassgreener reviewing “green” products is so thorough and brings up a lot of great points about consumption.

Follow Stevie (https://www.instagram.com/stevieyaaaay/) for lots of great climate info! She’s asking great questions about sustainability and transparency at Skims, without being an asshole. (Also, we didn’t say this in the podcast, but Olivia has been using Stevie’s Yay For Earth lotion for years and it is the BEST and cuts down on so many other products!)

Our World is Burning themed playlist is on Spotify.

You can keep up with us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you enjoyed this episode, considering reviewing us on Apple Podcasts and downloading/subscribing/following wherever you like to do those things. It helps us immensely.

Thanks for listening!

Ep. 43 – Carbon Footprints and Treehuggers – Climate Language World Is Burning

Did the fossil fuel industry really invent the carbon footprint? Did you know that the first "treehugger" came waaaay before the 1960s hippie, and took a much greater risk? This week we're talking about the language of climate change, specifically the carbon footprint and the term "treehugger." Olivia digs into the real story behind the corporate world's favorite unit of measurement, and whether it has any value in conversations today. Then Elise tells the story of the Bishnoi people and how the "treehugger" legacy echoes the stories of climate justice activists today. Subscribe/follow/press the button to keep up with new episodes every Wednesday! You can also follow us @worldisburnin on Instagram and Twitter, and check out our website worldisburning.com for extended show notes including sources and photos. World Is Burning is hosted by Olivia Hamilton and Elise Nye. Our theme music is by Kaycie Satterfield, and our logo was made by Sonja Katanic. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/worldisburning/message
  1. Ep. 43 – Carbon Footprints and Treehuggers – Climate Language
  2. Ep. 42 – What’s the Deal With COP26? A Brief History and What To Expect
  3. Ep. 41 – Imagining New Futures – Walkable Cities and Land Back
  4. Ep. 40 – The Bottle Episode – Milkmen and Plastic
  5. Down The Rabbit Hole Minisode 4: Golf