ERIN BROCKOVICH WAS A NOBODY who became a big somebody when she built, led and won a grassroots fight in 1996 against a giant corporation that was killing people with contaminated water in tiny Hinkley, California.
Erin Brockovich is the title of an Oscar-winning movie about that fight.
Erin was nothing but a lowly file clerk when she decided to take on the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. But that didn’t stop her or the people living in Hinkley. Their victory was life-changing for Bockovich. She became a lawyer and has spent the last 27 years standing with communities fighting to protect themselves from toxic water, land and air pollution.
Her new book Superman’s Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and what WE THE PEOPLE Can Do About It is as much about the power that comes from believing in ourselves, as it is about the water that comes from our taps.
“We’ve stopped believing in ourselves, and you need to get there to fight not only for the environment, but anything that’s going on in your life,” says Brockovich.
“Ask yourself, ‘What action can I take?’ When everything feels out of control, you come back to yourself. ... If no one’s coming, you need to rely on yourself.”
Interview with Erin Brockovich
The following excerpts are direct quotes from a December 4 interview with Brockovich on the podcast Useful Idiots.
You’re not ‘crazy’
And when you want to do something in your own community, don’t assume somebody has got your back or that even knows what’s going on. Make it your job to inform others, make it your job to get curious, make it your job to believe that yes, you see and are experiencing what’s happening. Own it. Don’t let someone else come in and go, “Oh, you’re crazy.” Because I understand that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from somewhere and someone said, you’re crazy. And I’m like, “Am I crazy?” And then I’m like, “No, wait a minute. No, no, Erin. Yes, you saw the 2-headed frog in the green water. No, you’re not crazy.”
Looking for permission
And these communities, when they call me in, they already know. And we talk about that in the book. They’ll email me looking for permission. If you’re looking for permission from me to act on what you’ve seen or experiencing, you’re going to get my permission. But what they really need is support. And oftentimes they don’t get that. So you’re going to have to call upon yourself to say, “I got this.” And I will tell you, 99.99% of the time, you do. You just have to get curious, rise up, believe in yourself and follow through.
Go do it again
I think of it as a big old football game, the Super Bowl. When you get into the game, you’re going to get knocked around, you’re going to get pushed around. And maybe you got pushed back 40 yards. But work together, be strategic, know your information, your facts, and go out there, pick the ball up and make a play again. You might be surprised that you rush 80 yards and you might be surprised, you’re actually going to make a touchdown. Go do it again.
Embrace who we are
I can’t get involved in every single fight across this country. Again, Superman’s Not Coming. I need to engage you and all of us. And when we work together, I clearly see that it works.
I don’t like to be put in a box or labeled or judged or perceived. But that process has actually happened to most of us. So we’ve stopped tuning into our own instincts that we know but we don’t want to listen to, and we’ve let a lot of negativity and ideas and labels and judgments and perceptions get stuck on us.
And I learned very early on as a kid, it’s like getting a octopus tentacle just sucking it off of me with those ideas, because I know who I am. And I think we’ve lost ourselves. We have always been taught, oh, something or a hero will come protect us.
And here’s a trick to believing in yourself. It’s okay to be flawed. It’s okay to be imperfect. That’s what makes us great. My vulnerability of dyslexia became my greatest gift. To embrace who you are. And it’s not easy to do and it’s scary. And I see that same process playing itself out in every community I’m in.
Be a human
And what you need to do is get involved. Do your own research, have a conversation, just get involved. And consistently, we have to follow through.
I’ll never forget out in Hinkley, California [the place we made the movie about] . They would always say: “Oh, you’re not a doctor. You’re not a lawyer. You’re not a scientist. You’re not a politician. What do you know? And why are you saying anything?”
I do not have to be any of that. And I do not have to have that label or title to be a human and to want to live on this planet safely and happily. And to tell you that green water, and two-headed frogs, and chemical in our water, and the loss of our aquifers, and everything that you’re watching unfold in front of you is normal.
Be a human. And you know what you see, you know what is wrong, and stand up, get involved, find your courage, and go out there. And I promise you, you’re going to find out, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t know this was going on. Oh my gosh, the light bulb comes on. Oh my gosh, I can be involved. I can do something. And I see it everywhere.” And we talk about it in, Superman’s Not Coming. People are running for office. They’re getting into city councils. They’re learning. It’s amazing.
There was a great story in the Navajo Nation with an artist and her name is Emma. And my gosh, she is delivering water to people that haven’t had running water or failed infrastructure for years. It didn’t take some big federal oversight or state oversight. And I know in their own nation, they got to evolve, the Navajo Nation, in finding ways to fund raise and develop and get people who are ready to fight.
I’m telling you. I get very passionate about this. We must rise up, and we can, as individuals, stop waiting, we don’t have time. Get involved, get active. You can do it. Your community can do it. You are the change that we’re going to need moving forward. I’ll be your best cheerleader. You can email me all day long, and I’m going to tell you where to go and what to do, but it’s going to start with you believing in who we, as a people, are again.
Listen to the full interview here.
- 30 -