Blood of the Earth


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The Blood of the Earth

A long time ago I was involved in an environmental group, and we were on our way to a conference. At the time, Shell were connected with the murder of the Ogoni Activist and author Ken Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria. Ogoniland was devastated by the discovery of oil, with the military moving in, and all the money being siphoned off to both Shell and the military government of the time. The people who’s land was being devastated got nothing but the effects of multiple oil spills and being forced from their land.

There was an international boycott against Shell. On the way to the conference, I was driving, and we needed to fill up. I pulled in at a Shell Garage and remember the gasps of horror from the others. We were in the red, and I had no idea where the next garage was, but after a brief argument, with my lame “but they’re all just as bad” being shouted down, we moved on.

In June this year, 13 years after the lawsuits began, Shell agreed to pay compensation of $15.5 million dollars for their role in the murder.

Unfortunately they are all about just as bad.

The international focus right now is on a case in Ecuador. Texaco, the oil company who were later bought out by Chevron, started operating the Lago Agrio oil field in northern Ecuador in the early 1960’s. The area suffered from serious damage, and the inhabitants have faced a huge increase in cancer rates as their water was contaminated with, amongst other things, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – the toxic legacy of oil.

The case began in 1993 when lawyers representing local inhabitants sued Texaco. Chevron for years fought to have the case heard in Ecuador rather than the US. Ecuador was run until 1979 by a military junta, and for most of the time since then has had a “business-friendly” government, with endemic corruption and a close relationship with the various multinationals in the country.

All that changed in 2007. A new, more people-friendly president, Rafael Correa, was elected in 2007. The government actually passed certain constitutional rights for flora and fauna last year. While the previous government had merely requested Chevron clean up a few waste pits, and then exempted them from any damages (a large part of the reason for Chevron wanting to hold the trial there), the new government is revisiting these old, cozy, arrangements, and Chevron is starting to sweat.

There’s a great human story there too. An oilworker, Pablo Fajardo, witnessing the devastation, tried a different tack. He got educated, got a law degree, and his very first legal case is against the fifth largest company in the world!

The case is long and complex, and Chevron may still get off legally. But a moral blow has been struck and again, something hidden has been brought out into the open. More of us are aware that every time we fill our car, every plastic bag we use, we’re giving our money to this industry.

Chevron are present in South Africa as the owners of Caltex.

Collection Point changes

There are numerous collection point changes. Superfoods, who were in Constantia, have moved to new premises in upper Newlands. Watson Road in Muizenberg is back again after the week’s break, and we have a new collection point in Durbanville. There are also some changes to the times – please check the details for your collection point on the site.

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team

Comment ( 1 )

  1. Jennifer

    I often find myself wondering about how to be good, whilst being a consumer. Oil seems to have a permanent and detrimental effect on those who are unlucky enough to be born in oil-rich countries (unless you are American, Norwegian or are in government and have the power to sell it for your own personal benefit). Creating an awareness is perhaps a start but we, as petrol-guzzling and selfish infinitely consuming humans are not willing to exchange our 4x4's for walking. I'd like to buy my oil from Norway - it seems that state-ownership brings about some good things. The alternative is to watch and see how Norway's wealth and therefore power to buy shares in Shell and BP may have a positive effect on how those companies behave - initially in relation to the environment, hopefully later in relation to the nations from which the oil companies are pillaging...