Hey, Look Over There

Carolyn Scott's hero promotion


Carolyn Scott, founder and director of Reel Community Action in Santa Rosa has been honored as April’s “Vibrant Giver” by the online women’s magazine VibrantNation.com. Selected from among 20,000 members of women over 50, Scott seemed like a perfect candidate for a Green Zone interview because the award announcement said she is “someone who gives back to her community in a big way” and that her work “inspires sustainable communities.” But when I called her up, all Scott wanted to talk about was what other people are doing to save life on planet Earth. “Don’t look at me,” she says. “Look at the real heroes.” 

Looking at real heroes is what Scott wants everyone to do. She is an environmental activist and educator who uses film to inspire activism, if not heroism, in everyone. Scott believes we can find our own ability to act by seeing what truly selfless people are doing and what they are risking for the benefit of everyone. Movies are the educational tool she calls “quick and powerful.” To save us the time and agony of wading through well-intentioned mediocrity, she has selected the top films we need to see to get the big picture—story-based narratives that will grab us.

“I want people to watch the best and most entertaining films, the kick-ass stories that blow you out of the water,” Scott says. “There are people out there putting their lives at risk every day, the lowest underdogs fighting the biggest corporate giants and winning. This kind of information doesn’t make it to mainstream media.”

But these stories do make it to independent films, including Scott’s own award-winning documentary Texas Gold, which tells the story of Diane Wilson, a Texan fisherwoman and mother of five who has risked her life and spent time in jail for standing up to the likes of Dow Chemical. The documentary’s synopsis by Judith Hefland reads, “Texas Gold profiles the brave and ballsy actions that have earned Diane Wilson the title of ‘unreasonable woman’: waging multiple hunger strikes, starting up a business bottling toxic water taken from a superfund site—which she creatively labeled and sold back . . . to the tycoons [who] polluted the water—sinking her own shrimp boat on top of a toxic discharge site, and being convicted for trespassing after chaining herself to an ethyl oxide tower at her local Union Carbide plant.”

Wilson displayed upon the tower a banner that read, “Justice for the victims of Bhopal disaster.” The same toxins that poisoned Wilson’s fishing in the Gulf waters caused the death of over 20,000 people when Union Carbide’s chemicals spilled in India. Clearly, Wilson’s fight in Texas is not merely local. And while most U.S. citizens may not have heard about her, she is known and admired internationally, even earning Germany’s Blue Planet Award.

What mainstream media will not deliver, Scott will. She wants us to know about Wilson and others like her. She wants us to know about all the heroes from Maria Gunnoe in Appalachia, who received death threats for standing up against mountain-top removal by coal companies, to Marc Ona Essangui in Gabon, Africa, who has also endangered his life by standing up to mining operations planned by his government in league with Chinese business interests. (Both Gunnoe and Ona Essangui are among recipients of the worldwide 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize.)

Scott is working to get the stories of these heroes spread around. She especially wishes to get filmed stories out to community organizers working to address climate change. Scott’s favorite North Bay models for promoting civic action are the Climate Protection Campaign and Go Local; through these organizations she works to disseminate important films to grassroots organizations via her organization, Turtle Island Films.

Does Scott consider herself a hero? Naw. But she is on the roster of women selected by the 2009 National Women’s History Project for which the theme was “Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet.” I think she earned it. We can’t all risk our lives to battle corporate wrongdoers, but when someone does, Carolyn Scott will make sure we know about it.  

To learn more about Carolyn Scott, go to www.turtleislandfilms.com and www.thereelgreen.org.

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