What happens when an industry hurts the community it built?
My hometown is a place with two distinct stories. One is a sparkling community built on the American Dream, promising better opportunities for all. The other is related to the death of my father. And his father, too — that’s the story I’m telling in this documentary VR experience and feature documentary film.
The town’s veneer is rosy: it’s the “City of Enchantment,” built by the family that founded Dow Chemical, with winding streets named after trees and flowers which flank the Gulf of Mexico. But there are also miles of pipelines nearby that pump out millions of gallons of toxic chemicals each year. After my father worked in this industry for over 35 years, his longed-for retirement was reduced to a life in rapid decay from Parkinson’s Disease, which has been linked to exposure of these toxic chemicals. And I quickly found that his story is not singular: incidences of illness in our community eclipse national averages. Staggeringly so.
What happens when an industry hurts the community it built? What if there’s no common-sense recourse, when companies own the politicians, deny any wrongdoing, fight regulation, and discredit the science that tries to implicate it? When did business start to prioritize shareholder profits over public safety? How can ordinary citizens take action?
These questions matter immensely and need to be answered now more than ever, especially as President Trump and the head of the EPA are working hard to dismantle vital environmental protections. While they do that, giant corporations are growing bigger: the recent merger of Dow Chemical and Dupont marks a pivotal moment in the petrochemical industry, a unification of two of the country’s biggest polluters. In Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath, chemical plants diverted toxic floodwaters into neighborhoods to protect their assets, flooding homes. The toxic trespass only continues.
City of Enchantment exposes the relationship between toxins in our environment and disease, the tragic cost of the indiscriminate use of chemicals, and the misinformation spread by those we trust. Told from the first-person perspective of a grieving daughter turned activist, the film also offers tools for other concerned communities to speak up and take action against the powers that poison us all.