The cover image of this documentary already gives the viewer an accurate sense of the tone in which Living Downstream is told: eerie uncertainty. As though moving through a Sci-Fi picture, unfamiliar of the rules and constraints in which the character lives-this is the feeling Sandra Steingraber maintains throughout the 85 minute film. A Ph.D. in Environmental Biology, Steingraber discusses her battle with bladder cancer at the tender age of 20-Steingraber's life is then transformed into a world of questions, correlations and advocacy regarding the relationships between chemical runoff and health. And picking up the reins of a fight Rachel Carson began after World War 2.
Less than five minutes in, I receive the proverbial kick in the stomach: Steingraber is telling her story from Pekin, IL-only 30 minutes from where not only the majority of, you, my readers are from, but myself as well. Talk about 'close to home'. Steingraber is talking about the Illinois River, South of Peoria-one she dubs: 'The River of Human Cancer'.
From Peoria the viewer is taken across the United States and to Canada exploring the migration and effects of the chemicals factories and farmers use and how those chemicals live and move around our environments
Steingraber has taken the reins of her cancer to advocate the elimination of dangerous chemicals used in factories and farms by speaking out on her findings and the findings of her peers on how chemicals affect our bodies and are strongly coorolated with cancer.
Living Downstream, brilliantly brings to light how history can repeat itself by hiding in a different cloak- allowing dangerous chemicals into our lives is a secular human rights issue-and as long as we stand for it, we perpetuate the violent toll it takes on the lives of ourselves and our children. And how silence is the the most violent perpetuation.
*All opinions in this article are my own. The DVD was provided by First Run Features.