Heinz Award Acceptance Speech

November 15th, 2011

Thirty-two years ago, I heard a surgeon tell me that the tumor was malignant.  He then asked about my possible exposures to toxic chemicals.  I didn’t know then that his questions would become my life’s work.


I certainly couldn’t have imagined, in that moment, this moment.


All thanks begin with Teresa Heinz Kerry.  At Teresa’s environmental health conferences, I’ve seen emerging scientific knowledge taken up by cancer survivors fighting for environmental human rights.  That communion of science and activism inspires me.  Thank you, Teresa.


Perhaps the best way to express my gratitude for this honor is to say how I intend to spend the money that comes with it.  I will be devoting the $100,000 prize to the fight against fracking in upstate New York.  Fracking uses fresh water and toxic chemicals as a club to shatter the bedrock of our nation in order to liberate oil and gas.  Fracking is an extreme form of fossil fuel extraction that takes us further down a ruinous energy pathway and threatens to add more data points to cancer registries.


In rural New York, we have seen how large checks from the fossil fuel industry beget silence, complicity, and fatalistic resignation.  I am interested in the opposite gesture:  directing a large check into the community in a way that enables speech, emboldens activism, and recognizes that true security for our children lies in preserving the abiding ecology of our planet on which their lives depend.


I’ll let you know how it turns out.  Thank you so much for this honor and this opportunity.