Erin Brockovich is one of the world's most well-known activists. An award-winning movie has been made about her life, she's one of the experts featured in the new documentary Last Call at the Oasis, and for the past 19 years she has tirelessly advocated for communities suffering from contaminated drinking water.
As if that weren't time-consuming enough, Erin has recently written the fictional thriller Hot Water. The novel tells the story of AJ Palladino, a feisty environmental activist who is asked to stand behind a newly built nuclear power plant. The plant creates medical isotopes that could potentially save millions of lives, but has had a few unexplained and dangerous accidents. Although the book is fiction, the contamination breaches are modeled after real-life contamination events.
TakePart spoke with Erin about her new book and the environmental issues our country is facing.
TakePart: Why did you focus on nuclear issues in your new book Hot Water?
Erin Brockovich: I think it’s something that we’ve gotten complacent about, and I think there’s a lot of secrets behind it. I listen to the people that come to me, and there’s a lot of communities in and around nuclear facilities that have strange cancers, lots of cancers. It’s something we need to look at.
Whether it be money, or some other mind game, I’m not going to let anyone convince me that I don’t see what I see.
TakePart: Why did you choose to write a fictional thriller about these issues?
Erin Brockovich: AJ is like an activist-superhero and, with fiction, our imagination allows us to say, "You know what, I can be that as well."
TakePart: One of the things AJ struggles with in Hot Water is her conscience. Her gut tells her one thing, and she chooses another path, thinking the massive paycheck will help her family. Have you ever faced a similar situation?
Erin Brockovich: It happens to me all the time. It's something all of us have been presented with—if not, you will be. That moment where you think, Gosh, I could make that money. But you know in your gut you don’t want it to be for the wrong reasons… I sit in community meetings, and I’m listening, observing, and thinking about if someone came along and offered me a million dollars to say nothing. That’s where Erin comes alive.... Whether it be money, or some other mind game, I’m not going to let anyone convince me that I don’t see what I see.
We need to become our own heroes. Superman is not coming to rescue you. We need to become aware, preventative and proactive.
TakePart: Where are the nuclear facilities that we should be most worried about?
Erin Brockovich: We should be looking at Florida. I was down there on a case in Acreage, where the state came in and said that they found a pediatric cluster. A lot of youngsters there have glioblastoma, which is a brain tumor. Everybody’s having a hard time figuring out what it is. Now, Pratt & Whitney is close to there—not that close, but they’re close enough. Also, this isn’t just about nuclear plants. We forget that we have ammunition plants and all these facilities that have done radioactive testing.
I don’t want us to all start screaming, "Oh my God, we’ve been radioactively poisoned. Everybody move!"... My point is this: We need to become our own heroes. Superman is not coming to rescue you. We need to become aware, preventative and proactive.
TakePart: Let’s talk about nuclear medicine and medical isotopes. The novel brings to light the need for them to diagnose and treat diseases and that the U.S. relies on Canada for our supply. Do you see isotopes as a necessary evil?
Erin Brockovich: Yes and no. Just think about the body scans and the things we can get that can help us be preventative and spot a tumor before it becomes a bigger problem. So, it is necessary, but it doesn’t have to be an evil. What could we change or do to technology so we can still use the isotope for preventative healthcare? How do we keep it safe and not let it get into the water? How do we better warn, prepare, and assure a community?...Communities want you to look at that, address that, and provide them with assurance and respect.
TakePart: What do you hope people take away from Hot Water?
Erin Brockovich: That they will be their own hero. Nobody is coming to save you, but you can save yourself. And when you save yourself, you save everyone.