BILL MOYERS: Welcome.This week in the streets of Boston, we were reminded once again that civilization is too often a thin veneer stretched across the passions of the human heart, with those who would commit acts of violence trying to disrupt and even destroy the fragile commons we call society. Fortunately, there are people who will not be deterred from the work of civilization, who will even from time to time go up against authority in peaceful disobedience, taking a nonviolent stand for a greater good. People like Sandra Steingraber, my guest.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Fight! Fight! Fight!

BILL MOYERS: We met for this conversation the day before she was to be sentenced to jail. It's quite a story. At the age of 20, Sandra Steingraber was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Several other family members also had the disease, but it couldn't be genetic because she’s adopted. So Steingraber suspected something toxic in her Illinois hometown’s drinking water and that led to an unusual wager. She talked about it in this 2010 documentary:

SANDRA STEINGRABER in Living Downstream: As a college undergraduate, I made a bet. I bet that my cancer diagnosis had something to do with the environment in which I lived as a child. And I think I was right about this. Ten years ago, in the fall of 1998, I gave birth to a child. I became a cancer patient at twenty and a mother at the brink of forty, which I know isn’t how most people’s lives are ordered, but that’s how mine worked out.

I am betting that in between my children’s adult lives and my own, an environmental human rights movement will arise. It’s one whose seeds have already been sown. I am betting that my children, and the generation of children that they are a part, will by the time they are my age – they’ll consider it unthinkable to allow cancer-causing chemicals to freely circulate in our economy. They will find it unthinkable to assume an attitude of silence and willful ignorance about our ecology.

BILL MOYERS: Sandra Steingraber wouldn't stay silent, today she is at the very heart of the environmental human rights movement that she prophesied. She's fighting to identify and eliminate carcinogens in our air, water and food, and to stop fracking, that controversial extraction of natural gas from deep beneath the earth.

She is one of the Seneca Lake 12, a group of activists who last month blocked the gates of a natural gas storage facility in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York State. On a bitterly cold day in March they were arrested as they demonstrated against the environmental dangers of fracking and the storing of natural gas in nearby abandoned salt mines. For now, New York has declared a moratorium that prohibits fracking in the state while studies are completed, but there’s no guarantee that gas obtained by fracking elsewhere won’t be stored in those salt caverns.

As you can see, for Sandra Steingraber, there is no line between her life and her cause. When her cancer went into remission, she became a biologist and wrote the book “Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment.” Her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter, Faith, led to this combination memoir and study of fetal toxicology, “Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood”. And her son’s childhood inspired her latest work, “Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis.”

Sandra Steingraber is a visiting scholar at Ithaca College. Welcome.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Thanks for having me Bill.

BILL MOYERS: There were 12 of you arrested, five have already appeared in court and paid a fine of $375. Why don't you pay a fine, go home, and call it a day?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, my feeling about civil disobedience is that it works when not only you oppose something and peacefully object to it, but also if the law itself is unjust. And so in this case, I believe that the laws around trespassing are unjust. And so accepting a jail sentence seems to me, for me the way I can best bear witness to that.

BILL MOYERS: What will your children do while you're in --

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, I have a great marriage. And so as my husband says, "There's a reason, you know, that kids have two parents."


SANDRA STEINGRABER: And so as I’ve told my children in the days leading up to this that, "If it is ever the case that I can be a better parent to you in jail rather than out of jail, I'm ready to be that parent."

BILL MOYERS: You were arrested, as you say, for trespassing. You broke the law. You knew you were breaking the law. What did you hope would happen?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, the 12 of us blocked a driveway that a company called Inergy, is using to prepare abandoned salt caverns that are underneath the west bank of Seneca Lake. We've been salt mining in the Finger Lakes area of Upstate New York since the 1900s, 1800s, actually. It goes back a long way.

And so there are these abandoned underground chambers that are now being repurposed for the storage of compressed hydrocarbon gasses that are the byproducts of fracking for natural gas. These are things like propane and butane. And so I believe as do many of my colleagues in the sciences that it's not safe to compress explosive gasses and store them underneath and beside a lake that serves as the drinking water for a hundred thousand people.

And so for me to come to this place and with my body block a truck that had a drill head in the back of it from doing its work was a statement that I was making about the nature of trespass. In fact, from my point of view as a biologist and a mother, this out-of-state company that has bought all these hundreds of acres along the west bank of this lake, near which I live, is trespassing in our community.

BILL MOYERS: What did you hope to accomplish by standing in the way of the trucks going into that property?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, I have sort of internal and external goals, I think. First of all, my own son was born just down the road from where I committed this act of civil disobedience.


SANDRA STEINGRABER: Elijah. And so returning to the same lakeshore to do something else with my body, to use it as a form of speech, to stand between -- and it was a howling blizzard, you know, the day we did this, so it was also a physically extreme thing to do. I was very cold. But to place my body in between this truck and where this truck wanted to go, to prevent this company from engaging in what I believe is an act of toxic trespass into our community, was spiritually meaningful to me. And I was—

BILL MOYERS: It was also political, wasn’t it?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: And it was also intended to be a political statement.


SANDRA STEINGRABER: I have worked very hard as a biologist and as a citizen to bring data forward. I have submitted petitions, I have written letters, I have testified about the dangers that this kind of storage of explosive gasses creates when you use salt caverns as the receptacle. And having overturned all stones for redress of grievance, I find that that regulatory system itself is unresponsive and deaf to the petitions of citizens and scientists.

For example, given that this company has already had accidents at this site, given that it is dumping chemicals into the lake, and that there has been no response, it's troubling. It's also troubling to me as a scientist that there's some of the knowledge about the geology of this area is considered now by the company as proprietary business information, which means that citizens and scientists who wish to offer comment to our government about the plans of this company have no access to data and information that we really would help inform our thinking about whether or not we wish this company to be one of our neighbors.

BILL MOYERS: Presumably, the driver of that truck was a hardworking man, a father, perhaps a grandfather himself. Were you comfortable keeping him from doing his day's labor?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: I think if you are preventing someone from getting to their work, your reasons better be good ones.


SANDRA STEINGRABER: And the possibility that the work that he was doing would create a menacing situation leading to the possible catastrophic collapse of one of these salt chambers and the destruction of a lake that provides drinking water to 100,000 people rose to that level. And I feel obligated to protect water not just for me, but for those who come after.

And I'm animated in the feeling not only because I study ecology and I have a kind of long view as an ecologist, but also, I'm aware that I myself as a child drank contaminated water, which may indeed have led to my own cancer diagnosis. And in researching the history of my own hometown, discovered that --

BILL MOYERS: In Illinois.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: In Illinois, right. That decisions were made a hundred years ago, 80 years ago, before I was even born, that were careless, that allowed chemicals to, like a falling curtain, to seep into the drinking water aquifers there. I drank that. Other people drank it. And it raised risks to our health. I'm -- having had bladder cancer at age 20, I'm now 53, I've lived for 33 years as a cancer patient. Of all human cancers, bladder cancer is the one most likely to recur.

So I'm forever in and out of the hospital. And so I'm always aware, as somebody who lives a highly medicalized life, first of all, that there is high economic cost to creating medical problems, chronic medical problems in people.

So we can talk about the economic benefits of fracking, but if we're making people sick and we're giving people cancer, if we're giving people asthma, if we're contributing to preterm birth and so forth, then are we not creating medical costs in addition?

BILL MOYERS: What response have you had from state officials? Because you've been something of a pain in the rear to them.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, I hope I've also provided them some good science.

BILL MOYERS: I saw one exchange where you were very frustrated. You were trying to confront a representative of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Sandra Steingraber with New Yorkers Against Fracking. We are here to – no, I’m not leaving, I’m standing right here, and I’m insisting to you that the people of New York are not going to let their health be held hostage by your review. All of us in the public health community --

MARC GERSTMAN: Ms. Steingraber –

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Yeah. All of us in the public health community –


SANDRA STEINGRABER: No, I’m not waiting anymore. All of us in the public health community are demanding that we stop this process now until and unless we have a comprehensive health impact assessment with full public participation –

MARC GERSTMAN: Let me speak if you want to have a conversation.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: I have written you so many letters that you have never responded to. The people of New York insist on a comprehensive health impact assessment. We will not settle for anything less. We are going to open this process up because secrecy cannot protect public health.

MARC GERSTMAN: If you want to have a conversation –

SANDRA STEINGRABER: I have tried to have a conversation with you, you don’t answer any letters. So I am using my voice in front of the people of New York to say we are not going to stand –

SECURITY GUARD: Please leave.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: We are not going to stand for a secret health study.

SECURITY GUARD: Please leave. I’m going to ask you again to please leave the hearing.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: It is my right as a New Yorker to be here.

SECURITY GUARD: It will also be your right to be arrested.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: I wasn’t – I didn't start off angry. I had important questions that I wanted to ask. And the frustration that many of us do feel in the scientific community in New York, especially the public health community, is the many questions that we have raised about the public health risk of fracking have gone unanswered.

BILL MOYERS: But here's what the industry says, the American Natural Gas Alliance. "Fracking wells have a smaller surface footprint, therefore requiring half as many wells as was needed 20 years ago. The process is far safer for the environment than other forms of fossil fuel extraction, such as strip mining. The chemicals used in fracking are highly diluted and natural gas is clean and abundant and fracking will provide many needed jobs." That, in a capsule, is their response to you.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Yeah. Well, that's the promotional language that fracking has been unrolled across our nation. But the data tell a different story.

One of my biggest concerns is what fracking does to air quality. We have some new data coming out of Wyoming as well as some of our other Western states like Colorado showing that drilling and fracking operations are almost always accompanied by spikes in ground-level ozone -- smog.

And this kind of air pollution kills. We know that. And so we could through a health impact assessment estimate how much ground-level ozone and air pollution would be created through drilling and fracking operations and all the attendant technology that goes along with it. Compressors, flare stacks, diesel engines and so forth, and run the numbers to see how many more children will have asthma, what will the heart attack and stroke risk be, how many more emergency room visits and so on. And we could even monetize those costs.

But so far, we in the scientific community have been unsuccessful in our petition that this kind of science should go forward as a precondition for making a decision about whether to lift the moratorium here in New York or not. So as a substitute for a comprehensive health impact assessment, instead, our department of conservation asked the Department of Health to review a document that we in the scientific community don't have access to yet.

BILL MOYERS: You were talking about a secret study that they--

SANDRA STEINGRABER: A secret study, right. So I've never heard of this actually, in public health. How can you have a secret public health study? It seems almost a contradiction in terms. So those of us who actually live there, who are parents, who have children there and who are also members of the public health community, who have scientific questions, we feel very frustrated.

I have worked for 20 years on toxic chemicals and what we call toxic trespass. And over and over again, we have brought very good science into the public. We have brought it before presidents, we have brought it before Congress. And over and over again, the regulatory system has proved impervious to our petitions.

It is a broken system. It cannot respond to new science. It can't respond to -- it can't sort of evolve to say, "All right, here's new evidence that this chemical is linked to preterm puberty in girls or early preterm labor in women or to learning disabilities and so forth."

There's nothing in our laws take in that new information and say, "It's time to redesign our economy so it does not have to depend on chemicals that inherently cause childhood developmental problems." So that's one source of frustration for me. At the same time we have climate change, right? And so the way I see this, we have two separate environmental crises.

BILL MOYERS: You call it climate change, I think we can appropriately call it climate chaos.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Or climate instability, yes.



BILL MOYERS: Go ahead.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: The environmental crisis seems to me like a tree with two trunks. On one of these trunks is toxic trespass. So all of us are—

BILL MOYERS: Toxic trespass?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Toxic trespass--

BILL MOYERS: You've used that several times. What is it?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, it means that chemicals without our consent enter our body sometimes because we inhale them. You know, each of us breathes a pint of atmosphere with every breath. And so that is one way in which toxic air pollutants then enter us, into our bloodstream.

So the other trunk of this tree of crisis is climate instability in which is created of course by the combustion of fossil fuels and their buildup in our atmosphere such that we're trapping heat and that heat is being absorbed by the ocean, warming the ocean, but also acidifying the ocean in ways that are now precipitating mass species' extinctions. And the main actors in the story of climate instability are carbon dioxide and unburned methane. Which is--

BILL MOYERS: And fracking affects those?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: And fracking affects both of those, of course in-- first of all, natural gas is methane. And to blast it out of the bedrock and extract it and put it into pipelines and process it and get it to market so that we can make our tea kettles whistle, much methane is lost to the atmosphere in that, during that time.

Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, more than twenty times more powerful over a 100-year period.

And so as far as I can see then this tree of crisis has a common root, which is a kind of ruinous dependency on fossil fuels.

BILL MOYERS: You are confronting here the current momentum of capitalism, and a hundred-year momentum of capitalism where creating commodities and wealth require the processes that are sometimes dangerous to us, or that provide economic benefits.

I read -- in preparing for this conversation, I read the story of one fellow who's been working at odd jobs, taking welfare when he must, who's now expecting a windfall of up to $300,000 a year for the next decade from a lease he signed for fracking with Chevron. Now do you really expect him to turn that down?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, once they get to the level of -- to the end of the process, where we're asking a desperate farmer to turn away from looking at the bedrock under his feet as a bank account, you know, as a piñata that could be shattered to make money so he could retire, so he can send his children to college -- we've failed, right? We've failed.

And so I'm far more interested in going upstream and looking at this as a design problem. To say, "All right, so we've had our run of fossil fuels. And we've become incredibly dependent on them to make stuff for us, right?" So the vinyl siding on your house is made out of natural gas, right.

And hydrous ammonia, which is used as synthetic fertilizer in our wheat fields and our corn fields, also made out of natural gas. So we have created an agricultural system that rides a tandem bicycle with the fossil fuel industry. We have created a materials economy and surrounds ourselves with material that are essentially fossils that were exhuming from the earth at a way that is not sustainable. They're called nonrenewable for a reason.

And so it’s time to engage human ingenuity to do something entirely different.

And that's where I'm interested in working. Because it seems to me when I look back at history, we have, in the United States, faced other times where our economy was ruinously dependent on some kind of abomination. And of course, slavery would be the one I would use as my example here. Where people had to rise up and say that even though millions of dollars of personal wealth is bound up in slave labor, even though slave labor offered us the lower prices of goods, offered us ability to be competitive in the world market, it's wrong to do that.

And instead of trying to regulate slavery, control slavery emission rates, have state-of-the-art slavery, we decided to take an abolitionist approach to that. So I named my son Elijah, you know, after an abolitionist from my home state of Illinois, Elijah Lovejoy, who--

BILL MOYERS: A great newspaper editor.


BILL MOYERS: I learned his story when I was growing up.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Every Illinois school child learns the story.

BILL MOYERS: And many in Texas did as well.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, he's he plays a role, of course, not only as an abolitionist but as a defender of our First Amendment rights.

BILL MOYERS: Ultimately killed by a mob.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Ultimately pumped full of five bullets in the free state of Illinois, you know, just down the stream from where I grew up. For daring to write and speak out against slavery. But his-- best friend who was then the President of Illinois College in response to the death of Elijah Lovejoy turned his home into a station in the underground railroad. And his best friend's sister was Harriet Beecher Stowe, who went on to write Uncle Tom's Cabin, and so--

BILL MOYERS: Unintended consequences of taking a stand.


BILL MOYERS: Doing the right thing at the right moment.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: And you can't always predict, right, of the power and inspiration that your words will have. Of course, his words affected John Brown, it affected the abolitionists in Boston and so forth. And so when -- I had to pause for a long time, in fact, it took me three long days after Elijah's birth before I actually named him Elijah, after Elijah Lovejoy.

It's a hard thing to name your son after someone who was martyred. But I wanted to, when I say my son's name, I wanted to remember that change is possible. That when you stand up and do the right thing and ask for something to be redesigned, that that's a noble and right thing.

BILL MOYERS: But here's what you're up against. The energy industry very easily got a loophole placed in federal legislation just a few years ago which exempts fracking from many of the country's major--


BILL MOYERS: --environmental protection laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act. Is that correct?


BILL MOYERS: So what does that tell you?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, what it means is that it's an outlaw enterprise. That it has succeeded in exempting itself from our nation's foremost environmental laws so our federal government doesn't have much control or power over this industry.

BILL MOYERS: Here's what I take to be the startling point in your new book Raising Elijah. You say that our chemical regulator system has ground to a halt. "Only 200 of the more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals used in the United States have been tested under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. And exactly none of them are regulated on the basis of their potential to affect infant or child development.”

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Right. So the science moves forward at a much more rapid rate than this law can respond to the science. And so when the Toxic Substances Control Act came into being, we didn't understand, as we do now, that chemicals can enter the story of child development as starting with the embryo, right, as this kind of opera of development begins. And genes are turned on through the actions of hormones.

Our D.N.A. is we now understand more like the keyboard of a piano than it is the master molecule of a cell, right? We used to think that the D.N.A. was just sort of locked in the cell and with the command center that sent out messages for all our bodily functions, new science shows us that environmental signals from the outside world are like the keys to are like the hands of a pianist who depending on what the signals are, of course, you can play jazz or you can play a Bach cantata.

And so our genes are turned on and turned off, they're made to sing more loudly, or the volume of their activity goes down, depending on the environmental signals they receive. So we come to see our genetics and the environment that we have it as partners. And so that's our new scientific understanding. But we don't regulate chemicals on the basis of whether or not they alter the way a brain cell migrates during early infancy which could lead to a learning disability, for example.

BILL MOYERS: One of the most harmful toxins is Atrazine. One of your peers at the University of California Berkeley, Dr. Tyrone Hayes, who is featured in your film Living Downstream, and he says, quote, "There's almost no aquatic environment, including rain water, that's Atrazine free." Here he's speaking about that toxin.

DR. TYRONE HAYES in Living Downstream: So, this is Darnell. Darnell is going to be famous. He's the first genetic male frog that actually completely turned into a female upon exposure to Atrazine. So he's been exposed to Atrazine at one part civilian since tadpole stage. And now he's an adult male that mates with other males and that actually lays eggs. So he's a functional female.

He may very well be a hermaphrodite if we dissect him. But he's a functional female, anyway. And he has now lots of genetic male sons that have also turned into females after exposure to Atrazine. We've also worked in what I call ambient levels of Atrazine. So we've always worked with levels that you would find, you know, in your drinking water, for example.

Effects have been shown in fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. So every vertebrae class has been examined. Atrazine has these endocrine-disrupting effects that include impairment of reproduction or lowering reproductive success and performance […] All those pesticides that run off the crops are in that water destroying immune systems, destroying reproduction, lowering sperm count of frogs. But the first species exposed to those same pesticides are humans. And they're exposed at much, much higher levels.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, Atrazine is one of the weed killers that we use in the United States and it's either the number one or number two weed killer. And interestingly it's banned for use in the European Union. And that's because even though we, of course, don't photosynthesize the way plants do, the weed killer has the power in our bodies to be biologically active.

In a plant, what Atrazine does, it actually halts photosynthesis itself. In us, it has the ability to mimic hormones and alter gene expressions in ways that there is evidence from the laboratory can raise the risk for harm. So the question becomes with a chemical like Atrazine, how much harm and evidence for it do you want before you say, "We're not going to allow this."

So do chemicals, like people are they innocent until proven guilty? Are they allowed on the market first until we can prove by dying or by harmed children that the chemicals should not be on the market? Or are we going to create precondition to say that before a chemical can be marketed you have to demonstrate through careful testing that almost certainly no one is going to get hurt. Most people would agree that the second way of doing things is the ethical, rational way to go forward and a lot of people are surprised to learn that that's not how we do things in the United States.

BILL MOYERS: There's a scene in the film Living Downstream where you go back to your hometown in Illinois to speak to farmers and other town folks at a town hall meeting. Here it is.

SANDRA STEINGRABER in Living Downstream: This is breast milk […] In this jar of milk are all kinds of growth factors whose job it is to stimulate the development of the brain and to stimulate the development of the digestive tract and to stimulate the development of the immune system. Breast-fed infants grow into children who have lower risk for autoimmune problems such as diabetes, Crohn's disease, juvenile arthritis, leukemia, allergies, and eczema.

So now I'm going to talk a little bit about breast milk from a chemical point of view. In this jar is the most highly chemically-contaminated human food on the planet. It has more dioxins, more toilet deodorizers, more mothproofing agents, dry cleaning fluid, pesticides, and P.C.B.'s than any other human food. And they didn't get there on purpose. They were carried to us by ecological forces outside of our individual control. They represent a form of toxic trespass.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Talking about children's wellbeing I think is a good place to begin a conversation about these issues, especially in places that are animated by right to life issues, right? And so I'm not a member of the right to life community and yet having grown up in that community, I do respect those whose paramount concern is the sanctity of fetal life.

I look it as an issue of a woman's reproductive rights. You know, a woman's body is the incubator and the first environment for a child. And that surely the flipside of Planned Parenthood is to be able to plan a parenthood and carry it out without other people's toxic chemicals interfering with it.

But whether like me you're someone who sees this as an issue of women's reproductive rights, or whether like members of my family you see it as an issue of fetal sanctity I think we can have a conversation about what it means for chemicals to cross the placenta and enter the opera of embryonic development in ways that can sabotage pregnancy -- in some cases extinguishing pregnancy itself through miscarriage.

And some of our farm chemicals, some of the chemicals associated with drilling and fracking operations are linked in laboratory studies to those effects. And so I think what we can say is look, any chemical that has the power to extinguish a human pregnancy has no place in our economy. We need to identify these chemicals and phase them out. And so that, I think, a starting point that has the ability to unify a lot of people across political lines.

BILL MOYERS: So talk to me about what you mean with the term in here "the new morbidities of childhood."

SANDRA STEINGRABER: So there have always been chronic illnesses that have affected children. But never as many as there are now. So we see increasing rises in the new morbidities, which include things like asthma. You know, we now have an increasing number of children who are affected by asthma.

BILL MOYERS: One in 11, I think I read--


BILL MOYERS: --in your book.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Yeah. One in eight children who are affected by preterm birth, preterm birth being the number one cause of infant mortality and the number one cause of disability in this nation. We have increasing numbers of children on the autism spectrum, now one in 110 children are autistic.

BILL MOYERS: Autism, right.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Yes. And we have one in ten girls going -- white girls going into puberty before age eight and an even higher number of black girls.

BILL MOYERS: So what does that mean?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, what that means is that the pathway to sexual maturation is changing. And that has lifetime consequences. First of all, early puberty raises the risk for breast cancer in adulthood. But also when the body of course changes during puberty, but our brain also changes under the guidance of sexual hormones. In fact, you grow a whole new brain during puberty.

The childhood brain, the juvenile brain is actually much better than the adult brain at doing certain tasks. For example, learning a foreign language, learning an athletic skill, and learning music. When you go through puberty, the pattern of your gray matter and white matter actually changes. Old connections are pruned away, new brain connections are made, and that allows for other wonderful things. You learn calculus better after puberty, you know how to think philosophically and how do balance complex moral issues and think abstractly better after puberty.

So there are some things you gain in terms of intellectual prowess, but some things you lose. And so by speeding up the onset of puberty, we're altering the way children learn not only whether or not they appear to be sexual adults or not, right? And so if girls now have one and a half fewer years before puberty, then that raises questions in my mind about what we're robbing them of.

BILL MOYERS: Are you suggesting environmental factors are only causing these things?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: I'm saying environmental factors are contributing to the change. So the same chemicals that can cause a hastening of sexual maturation in lab animals are in the bodies of our children and we know that patterns of the timing and tempo of puberty in our children are changing.

And I think it's a picture that raises ethical questions. I mean, I as a mother have a lot of control over what I feed my children, especially when they were young.

I'm the buyer of the groceries, I'm the family cook, and I get to say what's on the plate. I also get to say whether or not you get to have dessert or whether or not my kitchen's closed and so on, right? However, although I'm a conscientious parent, I'm not a HEPA filter, right?

I can't stand between the bodies of my children and the 207 different brain poisons that are legally allowed to circulate in our economy and find their way into the air, into the water, and into the food. And so rather than trying to turn my own house into a kind of toxic-free bubble, I'm more interested in toxicity not being a consumer choice.

BILL MOYERS: Toxicity not being a consumer choice? What do you mean?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, I mean that as things stand now, if I want to ensure that the objects inside my house don't affect my children's development, I can look up websites, I can do all the research, and so on. And I can buy the, you know, the organic crib mattress and on and on. But I don't have practically have the time as a busy, working mother, to vet every single birthday party goodie bag that comes into my house.

And on a larger level, I think that if we have evidence for harm, then the right response is not, "Well, let's create a website so that certain mothers who have certain educational levels and income can opt out of that." But rather, it becomes our responsibility as a society to say, "Well, wait a minute. Here we have evidence that we are, you know, keeping dandelions out of soccer fields using a chemical that has a link to some problem in child development. Can we solve this problem in another way? And if we can, is it not our moral obligation to insist that this now become the way we do things?"

BILL MOYERS: I think I'm beginning to understand what you mean in here by a well-informed futility syndrome.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Yeah. Well-informed futility is an idea that psychologists hit upon in the 1960s, specifically to explain why the people watching television news about the Vietnam War came to feel more and more futile about it. Whereas people who watched less television felt less futile. So it seemed like a paradox, right? The more informed you are, you think of knowledge as power.

But in fact, there is a way in which knowledge can be incapacitating. And so the psychologists went further and now have applied this to the environmental crisis and point out to us that whenever there's a problem that seems big and overwhelming, climate change would be one, and at the same time, it's not apparent that your own actions have any meaningful agency to solve that problem, you're filled with such a sense of despair or guilt or rage that it becomes unbearable.

And so my response to that is basically what the book Raising Elijah is all about. So I try to take well-informed futility as my starting point and let people know that there is a way out of this. But because we can't -- I can't honestly tell you that the problem is less bad than it is, the response has to be that we scale up our actions. So the problem is huge. And so our actions have to be huge as well.

BILL MOYERS: Is that why you're going to jail?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Yes. I mean, I think what's required -- I don't think you have to go to jail. That's an act of conscience that I chose to take. But I do think that what's required at this moment is heroism. And I'm mindful that when I read books to my children, they love to hear the narrative of heroes.

And heroes that can overcome all kinds of odds when everyone is telling them they can't possibly win, and they do. And I still believe in that very strongly. I was really moved by a conversation I had and I describe this in the book, with a third grade teacher who taught during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early '60s. Her class was so terrified that she had to suspend lessons and just talk to them about it.

And at one point in asking her class questions about the situation she realized how all of them fully expected to die. And so she asked, "Well, how many of you believe that there will be nuclear war within your lifetime?" And every single child's hand went up except for one girl. And so she was wise enough to ask that one girl, "Well, what makes you think that you won't die?"

And the answer was, "Because my parents are peace activists, they're going to stop it." So that made me realize in thinking through the story that my task as a parent is not to come up with the perfect climate change story to tell my children.

It is not to hide the data on my desk when they're old enough to read it because I'm fearful that it will upset them. Instead, my job is to be a hero. My job is to go out there and stop it, to tell my children, "Look, climate change is a serious problem. It's a threat to your future. But Mom is on the job."

That's why I'm up at 3:30 on the morning, pushing the button on the crock pot, "There's your dinner, you're going to have to do your own homework tonight. I'm off to Albany. I'm trying to stop fracking." This is why. And my kids therefore, fully believe that I'm capable of doing this, right?

BILL MOYERS: But Joseph Campbell told me that the hero's journey belongs to every man and woman.


BILL MOYERS: Everyone has to take her own route into the hero's journey. But every mother can't be a biologist. Every mother can't be going to jail to inform her children that she's out there on duty to make the world better. Can you give me a few practical things that mothers listening to us right now, and fathers I may say, can do to protect their children in this -- what you describe as a relatively hostile environment?

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, I see my job, Bill, as not helping people to feel that they can be safe, but rather showing and illuminating people where the paths for activism lie. Because this is how I could sort of conceptualize it, I think. Going back to the Cuban Missile Crisis, people who lived through that time could either build a bomb shelter or they could work on disarmament.

But if you work on building a bomb shelter, then you actually create a sense that this is less unthinkable than it should really be. And so sometimes you need to feel unsafe to feel vulnerable to say, "I'm not going to build a beautifully-appointed, toxic-free bubble for my family, because sooner or later my children have to grow up anyway and enter the world," right?

They going to need some pollinators, they're going to need some coral reefs, they need the ice caps frozen so that the climate remains stable. And so it's my job to address myself to those issues. I can't tell people what they should do because I don't know what skill sets they have. But I can say that it is time now to play the save the world symphony.

I don't know what instrument you hold, but you need to play it as best as you can and find your place in the score. You don't have to play a solo here. But this is our task now. In the same way that my father at age 18 was shipped off to Italy to fight Hitler's army, it was his task of his generation to defeat global fascism. And at the time he was sent it looked like an overwhelming job, right?

I mean, it looked – it was supposed to be the thousand-year reign and it looked -- didn't look good for our side. But nevertheless, that was the right thing to do. And my father, even though he suffered his whole life from what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder was never prouder of the role that he played.

And so at this point in our history, it is the environmental crisis that is the great moral crisis of our age. And in that, I don't want to be a good German. I don't want to be so paralyzed by well-informed futility syndrome that I don't look around me and see the signs of harm. I want to be one of the French resistance. One of the people who stand up and say, "This is not right. No matter how difficult this is to change, we're going to have to change it."

BILL MOYERS: Sandra Steingraber, thank you very much for being with me and good lucky to you.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: You're welcome, Bill. Thanks for having me.

BILL MOYERS: On Wednesday, the day after our conversation, the judge sentenced Sandra Steingraber and two other activists to 15 days in jail after they pleaded guilty to trespassing.

SANDRA STEINGRABER: Go out and fight. Write letters to the editor.

BILL MOYERS: She's doing her time as we speak.

BILL MOYERS: The toxic trespassers of which Sandra Steingraber warns afflict all creatures great and small -- from humans to the humblest honeybee. As you may have read, honeybee populations are dying out all over the world and with a serious impact on our food supply. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a quarter of the American diet, many of our fruits and vegetables especially, rely on pollination by honeybees. But something is killing them at an accelerated pace and it’s getting worse. Forty to fifty percent of the hives have been wiped out.

More and more, the leading suspect is certain pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, singly or in combination, that appear to be slaughtering bees outright or affecting brain and nerve functions. Beekeepers and activist groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency to ban a kind of pesticide known as neonicotinoids.

Not only are we dependent on the honeybee for much of what we eat, there is, of course, a grace and elegance they bring to the natural world that would diminish us all were they to disappear. The environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben narrates this short film by my friend and colleague, Peter Nelson.

BILL MCKIBBEN: Let’s think about bees in a hive, they go out every day when the temperature is high enough. There’re not like other farm animals, they’re this weird wonderful cross between wild and domestic and they head out into the open world and they come back as it were, with reports about that world, you know, what it’s like miles away. So one little bee yard some place is a kind of hub for understanding whole huge swath of territory. Understanding whether it’s been farmed well, or treated as kind of a monoculture; whether it’s being saturated in pesticides or whether it’s producing a wide beautiful variety of flowers of all kinds.

There’re sort of accomplices in figuring how healthy and together our landscapes really are. One of the reasons I like being out with bees is that you do sort of slow down and enter their world a little bit. I think they’re quite beautiful, I like watching -- I confess -- I like watching in early spring the first few days of bees coming back with pollen and just sort of looking at the pollen in their saddle bags as they return and seeing what color it is and figuring out where--what tree it must of come from, or whatever. And there’re beautiful and that you get a sense of indefatigability, I mean, this is an impossible task to, you know, three grains at a time produce enough honey at time to keep the colony alive over the winter, and yet they do it and there is something quite beautiful about that too.

I think most bee keepers are fascinated by bees themselves. This perfect example of the idea that humans could cooperate with another species to both of their mutual benefit we don’t have very many examples of that in our society but that’s what a bee hive is.

I mean honey bees are, like everything else on our planet, under all kinds of duress. I mean, the world in which we jointly inhabit is changing with enormous speed, so none of the patterns that any of us are used to exist in same way anymore. Bees are under treat because landscapes keep changing, we get better at everything that we do and take more cutting of hay, you know, we leave less time for clover to just sit there in the field. Life is speeding up for them just like it is for us and really neither us is coping very well with the results of that.

So, I mean, what we could do to help bees is exactly what we can do to help ourselves, try to slow down the pace of change in the world around us. Human societies aren’t going to be able to cope with rapid climate change and neither can most animal societies, bees included. Human societies can’t cope, turning everything into monoculture, neither can bees, they are a remarkable reminder for the need for a certain kind of stability, in terms of things like climate and the need for a certain kind of variety, in terms of landscape and what’s around us. We need to be making at this point in our society some wise decisions about the years ahead and so we need to be using some of that same focused and determined decision making that bees has successfully employed over a great many millennium.

BILL MOYERS: At our website, come take a look at our new and improved "Take Action Page," connecting you to people and organizations working for social justice. There’s also more on fracking and the toxic trespassers that threaten our water, air and food. That’s all at I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.

Watch By Segment

  • Sandra Steingraber’s War on Toxic Trespassers

    Biologist, mother and activist Sandra Steingraber discusses her fight against fracking and toxins contaminating our air, water and food.

    Air Date: April 19, 2013
    Sandra Steingraber’s War on Toxic Trespassers
  • “Dance of the Honey Bee”

    Biologist, mother and activist Sandra Steingraber discusses her fight against fracking and toxins contaminating our air, water and food.

    Air Date: April 19, 2013
    “Dance of the Honey Bee”

The Toxic Assault on Our Children

April 19, 2013

Biologist, mother and activist Sandra Steingraber joins Bill to explain why she was willing to go to jail — and did — for blocking access to the construction of a storage and transportation facility involved in the controversial process of fracking. Steingraber has become internationally known for building awareness about toxins she says are threatening our children’s health by contaminating our air, water and food, and talks to Bill about how we must take action stop these “toxic trespassers.”

With government captured by the very industries it’s supposed to regulate, Steingraber has lost patience with politicians and corporations, and says we need to work together now to prevent destruction to the environment.

Also on the show, Bill presents the short documentary “Dance of the Honey Bee.” Narrated by Bill McKibben, the film takes a look at the determined, beautiful, and vital role honey bees play in preserving life, as well as the threats bees face from a rapidly changing landscape.

Learn more about the production team behind Moyers & Company.

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  • Joseph M Campbell

    Vigil tonight and every night until Sandra and her 2 co-defendants released from Jail. 6-8 pm in Elmira and Watkins Glen. Details at

  • Anonymous

    Most of these politicians would sell their own grandmother into prostitution if it made a buck, but most of them have the attitude not in my yard, I dont care if it is down the road. Most of the lakes and streams are severely polluted from toxic run off from the poultry industry in Eastern oklahoma , arkansas, and missouri, but many prominent politicians can’t sway the big local employers to clean it up, even though hundreds of kids are coming down with cancer in those rural areas. The almighty dollar is everything in this society, they don’t care if they poison the masses with their toxins. Sandra is a very courageous woman, its difficult to fight the corporate masters, as we are all slaves to their business interests.

  • Reddoor2

    The toxic assault on our children and their environment has as much to do with what we are putting in their minds, as in their bodies. Boston seems yet another example of the social isolation, the search for meaning, the anger and rage that has become hatred that is fed by intolerance of individuality, the demand for uniformity, uninformed by understanding of our own humanity, in an increasingly difficult and diverse society. All avenues to gain acceptance, to share community and concern for one another are being closed by fear, anger and intolerance, economic and social instability. Is it any wonder our kids are lost, ready to accept love and approval from any source? Listen to the Uncle of the two Boston suspects-ready to throw them under the bus without a second thought. Losers he called them, although very accomplished in athletics and academics. With family like that, two immigrant boys need friends. Perhaps they found them on the internet. Sad for the victims, but often criminals are themselves, victims first. The toxicity of life in America is going to damage all of us, our children most of all, but we will not survive long without them, without their hope for the future, and without their ambition, idealism and most of all, without the love and generosity we must give them if we are to have any hope of their support of us in our waning years. I am sad for Boston, and for America.

  • John Torday

    The segments of Moyers & Company on Sandra Steingraber and on the collapse of bee colonies are linked. The neonicotinoids that are thought to be destroying bees may very well be causing the epidemic of asthma. Work in my laboratory has shown that asthma is caused by exposing fetal rats to nicotine in the womb, an effect that is passed on from generation to generation. Neonicotinoids are said not to affect mammals in the same way as they do insects, but that reasoning does not take into account the cumulative and multiplier effects on the developing fetus and on the generations to come.

  • Alicia Cohen

    I am working to clean up the air in my city–the EPA has ranked my daughter’s school in the bottom 2% for toxic industrial air quality. Today was a tough day for some reason. I feel like a dark cloud and bearer of bad news discussing the frightening numbers and statistics at PTA meetings and on our preschool email lists. I doubt myself and I feel that so many people really don’t want to know (and I understand). It can be disheartening work for someone who is a bit shy and today has been particularly disheartening. So it meant a great deal to me to stumble across this show as I was driving to drop off fliers for an Earth Day event across town. Susan Stiengraber has been an incredible inspiration and source of essential information for me and to hear her voice tonight gave me a deep sense of gratitude. I am so grateful for her work (and Bill Moyers!). I will hold on to the anecdote about the child who wasn’t afraid of nuclear war because her parents were peace activists. Thank you Susan Stiengraber, from the bottom of my heart!

  • J. Cummings

    Illinois is now embroiled in a battle over fracking as well. Many in southern Illinois are leasing their lands — and this is being done on some of the “richest” agricultural soil in the nation. After watching the Moyers & Company show last night, I am unable to sleep and am wondering what can I do? What can we do — to unblock the stuffed ears of our corporate-legislature? If “average” citizens without deep pockets wants to be heard these days, they feel the full weight of “informed futility” as most of the “action” we are asked to do — by both not-for-profits and political parties alike — involves reaching into our wallets!

  • Anonymous

    Sandra Steingraber is described as an activist, which is a very limiting term for someone of the heroic, intellectual and moral character that she possesses. After all, US corporations are activists as well in the most negative of ways. In addition, to move towards a universal environmental movement, each of us must examine those things we support and eliminate those activities and institutions that contradict our goals. For me, one of those things is support for cancer research. Why, you ask, would someone not support cancer research? Because cancer research has evolved into a predatory corporate welfare program that does not address the core issues that cause cancer, namely environmental pollution by predatory US corporations and businesses that view The Commons as their personal property. It would serve the public interest if those millions of dollars collected each year from private citizens would go into an environmental cleanup and emergency fund. Perhaps, Ms. Steingraber and Mr. McKibben could unite for this purpose. While the monies raised may never compete with corporate capitalism, they could be used to create a formidable political lobby to counteract it.

  • Anonymous

    Add “biological assault” to the list of crimes committed by purveyors of environmental toxins.

  • Mo

    I wouldn’t read too much into the Boston suspects’ uncle’s reaction. Keep in mind that he came from the former Communist Soviet Union where citizens were conditioned to appease the state and turn in those- even family members- who violate any of its rules.

  • Cathy Talbott

    educate yourself and then your neighbors and friends and family. create resistance by organizing in
    your community and get local bodies to vote on local moratoriums and bans.

  • Cathy Talbott

    I couldn’t agree more. My husband recently died from treatments he received from the cancer industry. I tried talking him out of taking the poison but the doctors try to scare patients and are very successful in doing so.

  • Reddoor2

    We are not those people-yet. We are not conditioned to appease the state, yet we to are being taught to fear it. We were afraid of being “unpatriotic” and rejected if we did not support the war in Iraq. Remember?

    Comments like those of the Uncle of these boys are what we WANT to hear. It’s what makes it okay for US to hate them, without any effort at understanding them-because their own family does. In the same way we are encouraged to hate and fear Islam, muslims that make torture and abuse okay.
    WE don’t distinguish the experience of their uncle from our own because we don’t understand or recognize it, so in our minds, when those closest to people, reject them-we assume there IS something wrong-not with the uncle, not with the family-but with the children. Anger rarely comes from nowhere. It is grown and fed on ignorance, rejection, isolation, neglect. If we do not want “home-grown” terrorists of any ethnic decent, we, the people must reform ourselves in communities of tolerance, acceptance, guidance and respect for the differences that make this nation the melting pot of possibility and hope. We must recognize the value of things that money can’t buy-love, hope, inspiration, beauty, health, life.

  • Reddoor2

    Alicia, thanks for your efforts. When I was young, I remember the news talked about Love Canal, the toxic waterways of the industrial northeast, and the cancer zones associated with them. Those concerns gave birth to the EPA-a federal agency that no longer has teeth, because our politicians are owned by corporate interests intent only on profit without concern for the costs to the environment, the people, the future. All of us can do something, must do something to protect ourselves, our children, and our earth from the destructive interests of profiteers. Thank you for doing your part. I know it is hard, but you do touch people, and children remember your efforts and carry them forward, as I remember Love Canal, MLK, RFK, JFK, and other people and events that shaped my values. Keep up the good work, and talk, talk, talk. Whether people want to hear or not-they do know the truth when they hear it, and when they are ready to accept it, they will act.

  • C Harding

    We Stand With Sandra Steingraber –
    We, the People of Ohio, Ban Fracking and Toxic Disposal Injection Wells in our State. We Want Sustainable Energy; Clean and Safe Water, Air and Land.

  • Lynne Wheeler

    Susan is a brave woman. She has our gratitude.

  • Anonymous

    The uncle’s response was an honest response to a horrific act. The “Old World” puts more emphasis on bringing honor to yourself, your family, and your community than we do in our culture.

  • Arianna

    Mr. Cummings, I don’t know where you live in IL, but there is a group Southern Illinois Against Fracking Energy or SAFE. We are out here and we can Use you and all your friends! This coming year will be a doozy here!

  • Arianna

    As a retired geologist I have spoken over and over again against “fracking”. I remember when it was “oil shale” we were after in CO in the ’70’s and that didn’t work out at all. Illinois and Wisconsin which touch on both the Great Lakes and through waterways to the Mississippi. Everyone is downstream from us. They are also trying to frack on Public Lands in the Shawnee National Forest of Southern IL. This wonderful slice of the forested/prarie areas of our country’s history deserves preservation as it stands. But, it stands for what can be done “in the name of the public” without the public being aware or agitating about it. If you can make phone calls, pass around a petition, organize a picnic to involve education, have a block party, talk to one person about the issue. You don’t have to go to jail, just DO something. Do whatever you can, just show up and keep showing up. Please, what Ms.Stiengraber said is true, we need heroes.

  • Arianna

    Alicia, don’t give up, don’t give in…there are more of “us” out here than you think. We just need to keep on keeping on as we used to say. Stay involved, stay informative and Stay INCREDIBLE!

  • Al Paulhus

    I would like everyone to know a few simple facts:
    Mount Everest is just 5 miles high, climbers in the best shape of their lives use Oxygen tanks at the summit OR suffer from hypoxia. The Federal Aviation Administration (the FAA) REQUIRE the pilot in command to use oxygen mask (OR a pressurized aircraft interior, like a jet) at or above 18,000 feet (less than 4 miles high) to maintain control of an aircraft. The useable atmosphere is merely as high as a trip to the local market.
    There are 300 Million people living in the USA. If every single person sent you just ONE dollar, then you would be rich. Oil companies, energy companies, they get paid $50 to $150 every week or month by working Americans. THIS is why they hate Green Energy. You buy a windmill ONCE, you buy a Solar Panel ONCE. We now know that electric trains and cranes are very powerful and that electric cars (the Tesla) are very fast. What electric cars are NOT are ‘highly profitable’. BetterPlace wants to swap your battery for a charged battery so that you can drive across the country non-stop. If you also can charge at home do oil companies keep getting richer?
    Capitalism REQUIRES growth but this Earth Day we know how small the planet is. Let us stop thinking about money and start thinking about life again. It isn’t “jobs” it is “quality of life”. Happy Earth Day!

  • Vicki Latham

    It would appear “the sky is falling” were it not for a little known mineral, Clinoptilolite. This powerful mineral has now reached the state of the art in a product that can remove heavy metals and most environmental toxins from the body at the cellular level…easily, safely, and it is incredibly effective. It is called Pure Body, and you can read about it on my web site:

    While we wait for this movement to allow a literal “grass roots” movement to reach and activate the general population, we can all safely purify our own bodies NOW, till the changes that are essential for our planet to thrive, perhaps, even to survive, can be made. Vicki Latham P.A.-C. (I have worked in Woman’s Health for 30 years, 7 years as an activist in the movement to create awareness about our increasingly toxic world.)

  • Steve Valliere

    Whenever I hear Bill say ‘Ill see you next time’ I say to myself – thank goodness.

  • Rationalist

    I will bet that in 20 years, listening to this person speak will give me cancer: Stage 4 pancreatic, to be more specific. Her words will cause my neighbors’s children to have 18% lower IQ than if I had listened to Car Talk instead. My cat will stop using her litter box, because I spent an hour listening to Ms. Steingraber this morning.

    These assertions have the same standard of scientific cause-and-efffect as what she asserts in most of her complaints.

    Why would you give this woman who simply enjoys scaring people such a wide audience? I am saddened and wish her the best in curing her legitimate health issues, but am frustrated by those who would distract us from solving real problems by picking villiains from a crisis-de-jour list.

  • Sharee Anne Gorman

    Judge Debbie O’dell Seneca in Pennsylvania delivered a blow against the Citizen’s United legislation last week when she ruled that the fracking industry did NOT have the right to privacy that an individual has and ordered files in a toxic exposure settlement case to be unsealed and open to public and media scrutiny. Here is the link:

    Integrity, intelligence, solidarity and courage will eventually outpace deep pockets. Throwing money at problems just leads to d*ck” contests, the only result being distraction and waste of resource.

    All we really need to do is stop, look around, share our insights, spread the word and gravitate to (and support with deep commitment) the people in power who do not value and protect their position over the needs of the people.

    “The Tide” A Global Rising Song (about the courage it takes to organize when you know you’ve had enough)

  • Rationalist

    I hope you realize that electricity is not created in the wall of your home. You can look up the sources for electicity in your area, but it is most likely coal, natual gas, or Nuclear power plants. Wind and solar are great but yet to break 2% of the supply due to their higher cost and real estate footprint.
    A lack of understanding of the true sources of energy is one reason our energy policy is so confused. Perhaps this Earth day we should all do a little homework and learn where the energy forms we prefer actually come from. is a great place to start.

  • Anonymous

    you got to be kidding. Ms. Steingraber made some of the best arguments ever for the cause of Americans to be free from toxins. Her term toxic trespass is brilliant , and I agree with her logic in her comparison between the economy of the chemical co.with the economy of slavery. With her pure heart I know her time in jail will fly.

  • deborah j barnes

    yes we can be heroes and yes we had better. I so appreciate that you used the “hero ” word as is now ok. I speak up a lot around enviro, economic, social issues and try to get people to understand the connections as ultimately everything connects to everything else. Sandra you gave me a new boost of courage and I so thank you!

  • Packet

    …Most of you have probably seen the scene in the anti-fracking movie where the water lights on fire. Problem is natural gas occurs in water there and always has.

    There is always going to be oil needed for lubrication of parts. The cheapest most reliable source is petroleum. Fuel made as alcohol could be made probably from hemp let alone many other things including many other things. But I am guessing it would be an easy natural source to farm.

    However a dedication to a much higher compression ratio 14:1 which will not burn gasoline is needed along with a method of detecting leaks that are on fire would be needed as it doesn’t smoke or burn brightly. Electric and Hybrid cars will never meet your expectations as there isn’t enough lithium in the world to mine to meet the demand for even 15 percent of all cars.

    WE in USA live under a bunch of rules only seen worse in JAPAN concerning emissions from automobiles. However due our safety laws you cannot own a small Kei truck or van in the USA and drive it on our roads which would be a huge saving in fuel. On top of that you cannot own the a 55 mpg Ford Focus due to our EPA laws. In the EU testing it got 69mpg.They drive them in EU. In Britain its been reported getting 83mpg on Imperial gallon.

    Steingraber should try living in LA or Mexico City before complaining about what might happen if fracking goes on. Her opinion is unscientific and emotional. God forbid she fills up her own tank and smells gasoline as it might send her into convulsions.

    I truly how many the people that comment here drive cars or if they do know anything about how they work.

  • Packet

    No I think he is absolutely correct listening to her would cause cancer and the cat did stop using its litter box LOL.. She really sounds completely ignorant and if you agree with her then so be it. Just keep pushing for more government regulation and eventually the government will be just like communist governments are now, they will own your property your shelter is on.

    She is free to ask questions but most of what she is claiming is unfounded with no science.

    I am sure she breathes in more gasoline vapor than anything else in to her little worrisome head. Its people like her that will suggest we go back to living in the trees rather than building homes out their wood.

    Living in the West Coast we get our largest amount of air pollution from when an inversion traps wood stove smoke the Winter and or car smog in the Summer.
    However the burning of Bunker Oil so you can all have your cheap Chinese electronics and harbor freight tools etc has been a heavy contributor too as ships wait to unload.

    The biggest bad air polluter happens when dust blows across the Pacific from China.
    This woman is tool nothing more.

  • Anonymous

    not afraid of government if it is of the people and by the people. Gov. is there to protect us from the companies who want to scam the people. we need to redirect all subsidies from carbon energy to sun and wind .Make our own cloths,build our own homes, grow our own food and really gain our independence again.

  • rationalist

    John Stossel used to be a consumer advocate chasing down evil companies that try to cheap or control us (I.E. Bernie Madoff and Cigarette manufacturers respectively). After many years, he eventually found that those compaies go out of business since they have no repeat customers.
    The government, on theother hand just keeps getting bigger with each new Big Govt worker trying to one-up the last guy so that eventually they will try to tell you that Soda Pop is toxic… oh wait, they already did that. When they start telling me how much water I must drink, I’ll know I’ve been transported back to the USSR.

  • Steve Cardwell

    Thank you Bill Moyers

  • patrick suzeau

    tell that to Kansas government! following are upcoming bills currently in legislation.

    A RESOLUTION opposing and exposing the radical nature of United

    Nations Agenda 21 and its destructiveness to the principles of the founding documents of the United States of America. WHEREAS, The United Nations Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of environmental extremism, social engineering and global political control that was initiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992; and WHEREAS, The United Nations Agenda 21 is being covertly pushed into local communities throughout the United States of America through the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives through local “sustainable development” policies such as Smart Growth, Wildlands Project, Resilient Cities, Regional Visioning Projects and other “Green” or “Alternative” projects;
    WHEREAS, This United Nations Agenda 21 plan of radical so-called “sustainable development” views the American way of life of private property ownership, single family homes, private car ownership, individual travel choices and privately owned farms as destructive to the environment; and WHEREAS, The United States federal government nor any state or 21 local government is legally bound by the United Nations Agenda 21, the influence of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives has now infiltrated approximately 600 local and regional entities in the United States, with as many as 54 of such entities withdrawing enrollment during 2011, due to the negative consequences experienced through implementation of Agenda 21; WHEREAS, According to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment, which would be accomplished by redistribution of wealth: Now, therefore, Be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the State of Kansas: That we recognize the destructive and insidious nature of United Nations Agenda 21 and hereby expose to public policy makers the dangerous intent of the plan; and Be it further resolved: That the federal government and all state and HR 6032 local governments across the country should seek to be well informed about the underlying harmful implications of the implementation of United Nations Agenda 21 destructive strategies for “sustainable development”, and that we hereby endorse rejection of its radical policies;
    Be it further resolved: That the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives shall send an enrolled copy of this resolution to each member of the Kansas Congressional Delegation.

  • E. Johnson

    Ms. Steingrader said that we were once willing and able to eliminate slave labor, despite its benefit in reducing cost of goods, because it was wrong. Have we really eliminated slaves and slave labor? Didn’t we just move it outside our borders to China, Bangladesh, Guatamala, Mexico, etc., so we didn’t have to see it everyday? I wonder where the clothes she had on were made?

  • Shawna Carroll

    Thank you.

  • Keith Baker

    The promise of the first Earth Day 43 years ago remains unfulfilled. I grow concerned when I attend an event and I am the youngest person in attendance – I am 56 now. I am very thankful for young heroes like Ms. Steingraber.

  • Topher Dean

    One narrative that needs to change is that herbicides and pesticides increase food production. They don’t. what they do is reduce labor costs. Now one person can grow what would have taken hundreds. Can large scale farming meet the demand of our modern society? Just take a look at Walmart or Costco. They sell huge volumes of organically grown produce. If organic farmers can meet the demands of Costco, then all farmers can. End of story.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, Sharee, I really needed this – Citizens United is positively ruining our “democratic system.” Can’t wait to watch “The Tide” too!

  • Jane Gamble

    Amazing activist she has rekindle my fight against fracking in Michigan I’m getting back on the front lines more empowered!

  • Jairo A. Molina

    If only more of us could have half her courage and determination.

  • Jill

    Arianna, your message to Alicia is so true. Another great environmental hero was presented last night on PBS’ Independent Lens program. The Island President was inspiring to me in that he demonstrated the tenacity to stay strong in the face of what can appear very discouraging. I, too, often feel disheartened and then someone will say just the right thing to make me realize it is worth it to keep up the struggle to raise people’s consciousness.

  • Bob Rundle

    The interview with Sandra Steingraber was both hopeful and inspiring. She presented a number of interesting ideas. Two seemed to need some perspective.

    Looking Upstream: She refers here to the sources of our chemical pollution. I think David Korten’s use of this concept (in the 2nd ed. of his “Agenda for a New Economy”) has more meaning. He includes the fable about so many babies floating downstream that needed to be rescued that no one had time to go upstream to see how they were getting into the river. Unfortunately this describes far too many of our efforts to improve social and environmental problems. In Korten’s view the “babies” represent issues like poverty. climate chaos, war and environmental destruction. The source of so many of these issues is the economy that most of us still help sustain.

    The Environmental Tree: Sandra describes a tree with 2 truncks. One is toxic tresspass. The other she describes as climate instability. I think it provides a more accurate picture to talk of these as 2 branches of a tree that also has branches for poverty, etc. The main trunck is our present economy.

    Her discussion of the “well informed futility syndrome” was particularly interesting. In working for economic justice I find this a major hurdle. Changing our economy often feels overwhelming for those with some understanding of it. But a person is likely to take further actions if they can see that their initial small actions (like shopping more at small local stores rather than national ones) are part of millions of small ones in a movement that collectively can bring change.

    No matter what area of activism we work in, we all struggle with the power of the big money generated by our economy to greatly influence public policy in our areas of concern. Korten challenges all of us working for a better world to join in the long term struggle to change our economy and loosen this influence. Most of us necessarily work on relatively short goals. He encourages us to think about transferring some small part of the resources for this to long term efforts to build a new economy. Such efforts can in the long term positively impact our special areas of concern. Korten’s book is one of the few places we can find the vision along with comprehensive and practical strategies for building such an economy.

  • Kirkn

    Just a quick thank you. The integrity of your programs is of the highest nature and appears to increase with each new one. I am sincerely grateful to know that our children have such a wealthy resource of intelligence and good nature to draw upon, nurturing there development into compassionate beings.

  • Anonymous

    The true crime here is that Ms. Steingraber and one other protester were sentenced to 15 days in jail, while the entire fracking industry operates with impunity.

  • Stephen Havel

    “well informed futility yields unbearable dispair or rage”
    If one understood this, even though the results are horrible, we can see why the U.S. population is under seige by those who can not hold back their rage over the atrocities the U.S. government AND it’s people have presided over a type of genocide against people of an islamic faith, as we saw recently expressed in the horror of the boston marathon bombing. We are infested with both toxins of the body and mind and it is bringing up to destruction from the inside out. This is the future we have allowed to manefest by complacency and greed, class, racial and ethnic bigotries.

  • yellowbeard

    Yes, she’s a heroric parent and a good spirit living a human experience! There’s too many calcified people in authority. She’s right. Thought and education needs direction to question corrupted authority and facism.

  • Mona

    our environment is so full of chemicals – this show points out some of these areas. mostly we are impacted negatively, whether it is affecting our bodies or our climate (which then affects how we can live). all are affected not just children – i question how we can lead meaningfull lives when we are assulted by toxins and then while we are weaked physically we are lead to believe this is good for us. similarily the American SW and the ancient puebloan peoples also affected their environment, causing significant changes in their environment and ultimately their futures. we may just be on the same track.

  • Jim Hannington

    Interesting creature, that honey bee.

  • Martina Nicholson

    “well-informed futility” leading to rage or despair— it is very moving to hear of the way children listen for the narrative of heroism. I will remember that. THANK YOU for all you have done. I have never forgotten the breast milk contamination, and consider how to help women NOT have this problem… I am so glad you have taken on the tough problem of fracking. We MUST resist the romance of more fossil fuel extraction, at the risk of our water supply being ruined. I will be praying for you.

  • Anonymous

    What disheartens me is that too many Americans ELECT the WRONG people into our Government. As the saying goes, all Government begins LOCALLY! Yet these are the very individuals whom give our Health, Tax Dollars, and Rights away to our ELECTED Representatives, to the very Businesses who are destroying us and our environment. Until we CHANGE what we elect LOCALLY, NOTHING will change in Washington, because eventually, these same individuals are elected to our Congress & Senate, to coninue BETRAYING, the People, and our Environmnet. PONDER on this, and CHANGE who you elect LOCALLY! or even WORSE, are many of our Ballots being MANIPULATED? I believe they are!

  • Anonymous

    Cathy, I empathize with your lost. Like you, I have had family members die from cancer. We know that the most successful treatment of most cancers is via bone marrow transplant, but this is often not an option in many so-called health insurance plans. Of course, many patients are unable to find a match. We, the people, need progressive advocacy on many issues and this is another.

  • Mona

    the clean water act and epa regs associated with clean drinking water and how they intersect with fracking is a concern. particularily in the west where water is already in short supply. krugman had a point about global warming and the drought in the southwest. all of this has me concerned about being in the southwest. there is fracking in new mexico currently in the 4 corners area. it is given pr that states it is safe. we already have a superfund site in abq and the kirkland fuel spill in abq and now fracking all of which i suspect is affecting groundwater.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Mr Moyers,

    Please tell Ms Steingraber that she’s one of my heroes.

    As are you. As are the growing number of people who are actively working to turn things around. Sandra got it right when she said “it is time now to play the save the world symphony.”

    Many thanks to you, and to all who are taking their seats in the symphony, playing their instruments, singing their songs… and finding courageous ways to overcome the well-informed futility syndrome. The show must go on. Let’s make sure it’s a big hit with the critics, shall we?

  • Anonymous

    The most successful way to treat cancer is to completely change your diet and eliminate as many toxins from your life as possible.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that diet and discretion is a strategy, but this solution works for prevention, not for treatment. Further, where one lives will determine how many toxins one can eliminate from entering one’s body.

  • Arianna

    What can you do? There is an ongoing sit in in Springfield, IL this week against fracking. It is not, unless you choose to civilly disobey, an arresting type action. Other than that, please call your state legislator for wherever you live in IL and the governor. We’ve been sold a bill of goods and we didn’t even get to see the goods. Btw, they also plan to run a tarsands pipeline across the state using the same “leeway”. Do it NOW!

  • Helene Voto

    Great program! I missed the original airing but thanks to your weekly e-mails, I save the ones I missed and watch them at my leisure.