Thirty-five years ago, I was a writer of guidebooks. I could tell you where to get the best cannoli in New York’s Little Italy, find an undiscovered bistro on the Left Bank, or sign up for the coolest walking tour in Amsterdam. I travelled in India for two years looking for the best Indian sweets and the sacred geography of enlightenment. Then I got a call that changed my life. A close friend asked me to write a guidebook to toxic chemicals and communities impacted by chemical contamination.
I was a guidebook writer, so I said yes.
As I began traveling around America, I met people sitting around kitchen tables, moms and dads, who were asking, “Why does my son wake up coughing? Why does the water taste so bad? Why does my daughter have a rare form of cancer?” They knew they were living down the street from a toxic dump, or incinerator, or chemical plant, or factory that was contributing to their child’s illness. They had no money, no technical expertise and little political power, but they were brave and tenacious because they were fighting to protect their family’s health.
This is an excerpt from the article, The Power of Collective Healing to Support Healthy People on a Thriving Planet by Gary Cohen.
This article is a part of a special series on the connection between inner well-being and social change, in partnership with The Wellbeing Project, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Schwab Foundation at the World Economic Forum, and Skoll Foundation.