It all began with a group of very committed friends, Wednesday’s Moms. My best friend, Olivia Newton-John, and I had shared the joys of motherhood together. We conceived our girls within weeks of one another, and they were born six weeks apart. Like us, Chloe and Colette had a very unique bond. They were glued at the hip.
On Wednesdays, we would meet in special places with a group of friends and their kids. The William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom is a beautiful park, filled with old-growth redwood trees and a duck pond with coots and mallards. It was the perfect place. It captured our children’s attention and inspired us moms to protect them and the environment. We sensed then that the fragile ecosystems that supported all life – air, food, and water – were becoming tainted with chemicals. Nature herself was beckoning, “Protect me.”
As mothers, we were sensitive to this calamity. We knew we had to defend our children. And we had to speak out against the use of pesticides and other chemicals that were invading our environment. Yet, in many ways, we felt helpless.
When Colette was born, I was a television journalist. I had been working as a reporter for The Home Show, an ABC network daytime talk program, a predecessor to programs like The View, where topical subjects became a platform for discussion. I was fortunate to obtain an interview with Meryl Streep, whom I had gotten to know as a member of an organization she co-founded with Wendy Rockefeller, called Mothers and Others for Pesticide Limits.
Meryl had graced the cover of Time to defend the rights of children whose food supply – mainly apples – had become tainted with Alar (daminozide). This agricultural spray, a pesticide, was causing worldwide concern. Meryl had testified before Congress, demanding its removal. The controversy became the centerpiece for the Children’s Environmental Health movement. It gave birth to the need for greater science and investigation in terms of children’s vulnerabilities.
Meryl’s determination to awaken others to the misuse of pesticides gave me an opportunity to take a stand. I rallied many of my influential friends in the entertainment community to support the passage of an all-inclusive environmental measure, California’s Big Green initiative.
To get national attention and raise awareness in support of this initiative – which would provide clean air, water, and food in California, as well as what I believed would be a template or model for other state initiatives – I produced an ABC television variety special called An Evening with Friends for the Environment. It starred Meryl Streep, Olivia Newton-John, Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Cher, Lilly Tomlin, and Robin Williams.
Then all of my work as an advocate became distilled in what I call an “infinitesimal moment of disbelief” the day I learned Colette had cancer.
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