Rosalie Bertell brings our focus to women and the environment
International Women’s Day is this Thursday, March 8th, and the 2012 IWD theme is Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures. This year we’d like to share with you the books in our Women Who Rock Series and hope you’ll be inspired.
In 2005, Mary-Louise Engels wrote Rosalie Bertell: Scientist, Eco-Feminist, Visionary. Engels begins her telling of Bertell’s life on a high note:
Dr. Rosalie Bertell can identify the precise evening in 1973 when her life changed forever. At a village meeting near Buffalo, New York, she faced an expectant audience. The people of Lockwood had gathered to hear about a proposal to build a nuclear reactor nearby. Rosalie, an epidemiologist, biometrician, and nun, spoke to them calmly and convincingly about the hazards of low-level radiation. She described her research linking X-rays to the onset of leukemia, then turned to medical reports of cancer deaths and increasing numbers of low-birth-weight infants near a nuclear facility in Michigan. Her message was clear. Shortly afterward, the citizens of Lockwood voted down the reactor proposal. “So I started off with a victory,” she recalls.
Bertell worked in Canada and globally to raise environmental and political awareness. Below is an excerpt that describes some of the work she did overseas and how she was motivated to create change:
Meeting with the people of Rongelap strengthened Rosalie’s conviction that radiation, and all forms of environmental pollution, systematically violated the rights of the vulnerable. In 1988, she and a group of concerned scientists set up the International Commission of Health Professionals…in Geneva. Its first yearbook published her address “Health As a Human Right.” In it, she argued that human health, no less than civil liberties, was a human right. … Those least likely to enjoy this basic human right to health, she went on, were usually “a member of a minority group, indigenous people, the technologically illiterate, or generally politically weak.” She was clear about the probable outcome if people continued to ignore the right to health. “Ultimately, if we do not address these fundamental health issues, the warriors among us, addicted with developing new forms of megadeath, will destroy us with slow poison, catastrophic environmental collapse, or all-out war.”
For more information Rosalie Bertell: Scientist, Eco-Feminist, Visionary visit our site here.
On Thursday we’ll be announcing the next great woman to be featured in the Women Who Rock series so be sure to check back then!