‘Better living through chemistry’ was an optimistic slogan of the nineteen fifties. But is that how things really turned out?
Meet Tony Ferro, a former Green Beret turned military contractor, trapped in work he hates by the health care costs for a son born damaged as the result of toxic chemicals in Desert Storm. Meet Branka Cermak, brilliant environmental political scientist at Wayne State University in Detroit who feels she is teaching and writing while the world burns. Meet the man they both hold in high esteem, Michigan State Senator Tyrone Jackson, also a Gulf War veteran, now a crusader against the devastating harms of toxic chemicals. Meet Janelle Fowler, a senior professor of genetics and biology in Chicago who is working on a study that could blow to kingdom come the plans of the chemical industry to pass critical legislation in Congress. And follow all of them as their paths converge in dangerous, eventually deadly, ways with Wilbur Hayes, an oil and chemical baron, Donald Wagar, a powerful Congressional House committee chairman, and Jonas-Gustav King, owner-CEO of Compendium Corp, the one-stop-shop for oligarchs, criminal bosses and nation states alike to hire both muscle and brain power to advance their global interests.
From the cities of the Arab East to Washington, D.C., from the neighborhoods of Southwest Detroit to the oil sands of Alberta, from the halls of the United States Congress to the boardrooms of the petrochemical industry to the community centers and modest meeting rooms in fence-line communities, Upstream shows the pain, the sickness and the violence that underpins the chemical economy and the love, courage and commitment of those fighting to mitigate the damage and create a better world.