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Heidi Hutner
Dr. Heidi Hutner is Director of Environmental Humanities at Stony Brook University, where she teaches about Environmental literature, film and media.



by: on June 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

I developed breasts and my life changed. Thirteen years old. Life was never safe again.

This piece is a long time coming.

It’s something I don’t speak easily about. All that harassment. It’s embarrassing. It’s humiliating. Best left forgotten. I’m so well trained to please men, to not offend others; I have tucked it under and swept it under. Still it seeps out.

Nobody likes an angry person–especially an angry woman.


Summer’s Gone, or The Bliss of Suburbia


by: on June 4th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

I woke this morning, happy to greet summer and looking forward to planting seeds.

Before, there was no time. No time. Never enough time.

This morning. I would make time.

I opened my door to greet the semi-quiet morning. Birds. Lots of birds. The humming of insects. The far away hum of cars.

First, I made coffee and planned to sit on my porch and read Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.


Civil Disobedience and Love: Sandra Steingraber Puts Her Body On the Line


by: on April 30th, 2013 | Comments Off

“Imagine what we mothers could do if we brought that spirit of loud, uncompromising, creative defiance to the necessary project of dismantling the fossil fuel industry and emancipating renewable energy, which is its hostage? Imagine hundreds and hundreds of mothers peacefully blockading the infrastructure projects of the fossil fuel industry, day after day. Imagine us, all unafraid, filling jails across the land. Imagine the press conferences we would give upon our release. Imagine us living up to our children’s belief in us as super heroes.”- -Sandra Steingraber

On April 24, 2013, Sandra Steingraber completed her fifteen-day prison sentence for “acting out” peacefully against the violation of our bodies and the earth by corporate polluters and environmental exploiters–in this case, the gas and hydro-fracking industry.

Sandra is my hero.


Guardians of the Garden: What’s My Faith?


by: on February 15th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

I’ve changed my faith or religion or spiritual practice a lot over the years. I was born to parents of Jewish ancestry, but they were Unitarians, or Jewnitarians, as their friends joked. I was born to hybrids.

When I was twelve, we moved to Israel, largely because my Dad felt guilty for not teaching us kids about our Jewish history. It seemed to me to be too much too late. It was an alien country and faith to me. I felt terrible about the holocaust, and I understood Nazis would kill me whether or not I felt Jewish, but I still didn’t feel like kissing the ground when we landed in Israel.

At thirteen, I went to Quaker boarding school in the mountains of North Carolina. As students, we didn’t go to Meeting much, but we spent our days and nights outside in nature. You might say it was in the mountains I found God. I came home to myself and fell in love with the streams, rhododendron, sandy mica paths, and black mountaintops. I loved sliding down rocks in the South Toe river, sliding down mountain sides in the snow, skating and swimming in natural ponds, resting in wild grasses and staring at the stars on windy nights. My house parents had to drag me inside to go to bed at night.


A Public Outcry Against Fracking In New York


by: on January 13th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

On Wednesday, January 9, nearly 2,000 people rallied against fracking outside of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, in Albany, New York.

Folks danced, chanted, shouted, drummed, and waved signs. Pete Seeger sang, the Reverend Billy Talen shook and shouted halleluyah, Sandra Steingraber, Debra Winger, and Natalie Merchant spoke. Voices of the thousands rang out loudly for hours.

Activists called (and call) for a permanent ban on fracking in the state of New York.

Geologists, chemists, biologists, and medical doctors argue that fracking is a threat to public health, will produce hazardous air and water pollution, and will endanger the state’s food supply. It contributes negatively to climate change as well, according to Phil Aroneanu, campaign director of 350.org. Of additional concern to many, as reported by Treehugger and the New York Times, among others, is the release of dangerous radiaoactive materials into the ecosystem through the fracking process. As of now, the gas industry has no means or plan to contain such radioactive waste.


A Violent America, or The Hunger Games


by: on December 20th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

The Northeast has suffered a lot this fall. First there was Sandy, now the Newtown slaughter. Many died in Sandy, and many continue to suffer from the storm.

This past week, in Connecticut, 27 people died violent deaths. Twenty of these folks were small children. It’s inconceivable on the one hand, and yet children and innocent people are murdered every day. Over 10, 000 human beings are killed yearly in the U.S. with handguns.

There have been 61 incidents of mass murder since Columbine in 1999.

I agree with Michael Moore, that the violence is about more than weak gun laws or mental health issues–although clearly both are problematic and I’m all for instating rigid gun regulations, and improving our mental health system.


Hurricane Sandy: An Island in Mourning and Crisis


by: on November 12th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

Hurricane Sandy in its aftermath

Hurricane Sandy: An Island in Mourning and Crisis

Day 5, after Hurricane Sandy hit, I dreamt about my three birds – a cockatiel, and two parrots-creatures from other lands, displaced and domesticated to live in cages in artificially constructed human-made environments.

Two of these birds died over the past two years – the parrots. In my dream, we are in my garage. The birdcage and the garage door are open. It’s a dangerous combination. Only one bird (the living one), a bright yellow cockatiel, perches in an open cage. I fear he will fly out and away – into the cold and die. Just then, my daughter runs past and opens and runs through a door that leads into the house. The cockatiel flies after my daughter and into safety. Relief. I turn back to the cage and see the other two birds who, in ‘waking life’, are dead. They perch on top of the open cage. They don’t fly away. Elated, I call out to my ex-husband: “They are here, they are here.” I go to the parrots – one bright green, and the other orange and yellow like the sun, and carry them back into the house, into safety.

We are home.

I wake up from this dream in the dark, cold, and early morning. As I wake more fully, my sense of comfort falls away. I remember: We are not home, my ex-husband is not with us, and the two birds I just carried into safety are dead.


Sandra Steingraber’s Living Downstream


by: on October 19th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

This Saturday, October 20, 2012, at 2:00 p.m. in New York City, Living Downstream, the film based on Sandra Steingraber’s stunning book of the same name–will have it’s premiere in New York City at Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center. It will have its broadcast premiere in November on Outside Television.

Living Downstream follows in the tradition of Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking, Silent Spring (1962). Indeed, Steingraber has been dubbed by many as a modern-day “Rachel Carson.”


Why I’m Going to the Women’s Congress For Future Generations and Why You Should, Too


by: on September 5th, 2012 | 9 Comments »

Eighteen years ago, a year after my mother’s death, almost to the day, I was diagnosed with cancer, Hodgkin’s Disease. When my mother passed, she had lymphoma. Five years prior to my diagnosis, my Dad died, after a long battle with Melanoma. It metastasized to his brain.

All that cancer so close to home was my wake up call. I knew something was wrong, and I knew it couldn’t just be genetics. Maybe the lymphoma was connected to Hodgkin’s, but what had Melanoma to do with my cancer or with my mother’s? And, what about my maternal aunt, who had breast cancer? What did those other cancers have to do with my Dad or me? And all these folks had cancer in mid to later in life. I was diagnosed at a fairly young age.

Suddenly, everyone else I knew seemed to be getting cancer, too. Neighbors. Children. Friends.

Maybe it all had to do with the poisoning of our environment. Toxics and radiation? This concern weighed heavily with me, nagging in the back of my mind as I went through the grueling ‘healing’ process of a cancer patient.

A few years later, I became pregnant. What joy! All I wanted to was to become a mother. I had waited for so long.

But, I wondered, what right did I have to become a mother at all? I felt guilty trying to become pregnant. What might I pass on to my little one, and how could I protect her from all the environmental hazards in our polluted world? What dangers coursed in my veins?

I knew that my ability to protect my baby daughter was limited. Sure, I did some substantial cleanses post Chemo, ate as well as I possibly could during the pregnancy (as well as before and after), used non-toxic products on my body and in my home, but no matter how much I did and do as an individual, given the boundariless nature of pollution–my maternal blood would still carry toxins right through the placenta and into her growing fetal body, and my breast milk would transmit pollutants as well after the birth, and after birth, well, it’s a polluted world we live in, and none of us can fully keep the pollution out. Sandra Steingraber documents all this in painful detail in her book, Having Faith. Or watch her film, Living Downstream and listen to Sandra as she holds up a cup of human breast milk and explains the high number of toxins in that precious liquid.