The Guardian’s John Vidal recently wrote a welcome piece – ‘We are fighting for our lives and our dignity’ - that connect some of the dots in the current end game for the Earth’s natural resources most of which are on indigenous land inhabited for thousands of years by people who care for it, worship and respect it. Transnational corporations drilling for oil, mining for minerals or cutting down all the trees and polluting the rivers – and so on – are competing to grab hold of the Earth’s last resources – and there really is not much left! (See also: UN expert puts forward measures to regulate ‘land grabbing’).
“An aggressive drive is taking place to extract the last remaining resources from indigenous territories,” says Victoria Tauli-Corpus, an indigenous Filipino and chair of the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues. “There is a crisis of human rights. There are more and more arrests, killings and abuses.
“This is happening in Russia, Canada, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Amazon, all over Latin America, Papua New Guinea and Africa. It is global. We are seeing a human rights emergency. A battle is taking place for natural resources everywhere. Much of the world’s natural capital – oil, gas, timber, minerals – lies on or beneath lands occupied by indigenous people,” says Tauli-Corpus.
What until quite recently were isolated incidents of indigenous peoples in conflict with states and corporations are now becoming common as government-backed companies move deeper on to lands long ignored as unproductive or wild. As countries and the World Bank increase spending on major infrastructural projects to counter the economic crisis, the conflicts are expected to grow.
It is a pretty good article – constituting a very important step to bring together these issues in a coherent analytical manner and to the attention of mainstream readers – but one could really have wished for something more to the point with regard to the Ecuadorian context – it is widely known and well documented that the Chevron pits are still there, even mainstream U.S television have shown such images.
“In Ecuador, Chevron may be fined billions of dollars in the next few months if an epic court case goes against them. The company is accused of dumping, in the 1970s and 1980s, more than 19bn gallons of toxic waste and millions of gallons of crude oil into waste pits in the forests, leading to more than 1,400 cancer deaths and devastation of indigenous communities. The pits are said to be still there, mixing chemicals with groundwater and killing fish and wildlife.”
To use the expression “are said to be still there” is really not appropriate, when anyone having spend five seconds googling the issue will have seen horrible, terrifying images:
…as the last natural resources of the Earth are being extracted by industrialists, their political cheerleaders, such as Rafael Correa and Hugo Chavez, are laughing all the way back to their chambers of power:
The Chevron case (crimes committed by Texaco, which Chevron has swallowed) is the Ecuadorian “Chernobyl” the repercussions of which unborn children will still suffer for generations. Because there is a tendency in capitalist culture to blame the past – and even accept, sometimes, the blames of past actions – in order to displace the problems of today and distract attention from crimes of a very similar kind being committed now – this article is good: it places all of these corporate crimes in the context of here and now. The Earth is not dying, it is being killed!
AS if killing the Earth was not enough, they are of course also trying to wiggle their way out of it with the help of expensive lawyers and misleading information – they go as far as even buying bloggers:
Chevron public relations director Donald Samson is orchestrating secret payments to bloggers to make on-line postings attacking Ecuador’s courts for determining the oil giant might owe up to $27 billion for the dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest, the Amazon Defense Coalition charged today.
The practice of paying bloggers for editorial content is considered highly unethical and Chevron shareholders should be aware company management engages in the practice to hide its actual financial risk in Ecuador, said Julio Prieto, a lawyer for the group, which represents 30,000 rainforest residents in the legal case.
“Paying so-called independent bloggers to post is just one part of a wide-ranging fraud designed by Chevron to cover up the company’s enormous exposure in Ecuador,” said Prieto.
Prieto said Samson, Chevron’s public relations director, has built an “empire” of consultants in the U.S. and Ecuador to put out misleading information about the case. Chevron’s environmental problems in Ecuador have become the company’s largest worldwide public relations problem.
Samson has retained the New York office of the global public relations behemoth Hill & Knowlton — the same firm that represented the tobacco industry for decades– to manage Chevron’s image problems stemming from the Ecuador case.
Chevron is now claiming in Ecuador there is no link between oil contamination and cancer using the same form of junk science the tobacco industry used to deny the link between cigarette smoking and cancer, said Prieto.
Zennie Abraham, a blogger known as Zennie 62, has several postings on his site that parrot Chevron’s litigation strategy in the Ecuador case without disclosing payments he is receiving, said Prieto. Abraham also posts pro-Chevron blogs on a human rights legal case stemming from the killing of Nigerian villagers protesting Chevron’s environmental practices.
“Zennie Abraham’s postings on the Ecuador litigation are grossly one-sided, ill-informed, and favorable to Chevron,” said Prieto.”
Given these circumstances, however, it appears incredibly important what choice of words John Vidal or any other (corporate) journalist chooses when speaking about the Ecuadorian Chernobyl – unless they’d want to lean toward the spin campaign of Chevron et al.