Living Downstream as interpreted by producer, director and filmmaker Chanda Chevannes depicts the story of Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist who dedicates her research to “explore the links between human rights and the environment, with a focus on chemical contamination” (Steingraber, 2010).
I had mixed emotions during the film. On one hand I was sympathetic to the human trials and tribulations Steingraber traveled through. She was diagnosed with cancer at a young age, and battled the disease along side her mother. Both survived. Steingraber discovered a mentor in nature author and early environmental activist, Rachel Carson. Gaining momentum from where Carson left off, after passing away from cancer, Steingraber researched the impacts of local industry and the effects the chemicals had on her community. She brought these issues to corporate and political America, and continues to share her message.
On the other hand, her perseverance and dedication to her work is admirable, but I feel (based on the portrayal in the film) she seems almost detached from emotion after everything she has researched and the health complications she has encountered. I have not had cancer and I feel reluctant to state this, but as a cancer survivor I would try to live my life to the fullest, be happy to spend time with family and friends and shed light on the possibilities of just being alive. It is easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and speculate what they might feel, think or do. Maybe she is still coming to accept her situation, maybe she internalizes her feelings and outputs them through her runs, or maybe she feels that in order to maintain a sense of normalcy in her family she needs to act like nothing happened.
I felt that the film was somewhat Erin Brockovich-esque, as both women were dealing with big business, small town, and the chemical contamination. Both stories are important crusades against the unethical treatment of the environment and I salute you Sandra Steingraber, and you as well Erin Brockovich!