A Rainforest Chernobyl: The Other Oil Disaster

I don’t know about you, but my mental health has been teetering on a cliff of depression thanks to BP’s catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil rig mishap. To think about all of the damage done to people, marine life, the ocean itself… My husband had to alert the men in white coats when I heard BP’s latest bright idea to stop the oil hemorrhage: stuff the leak with golf balls, shredded tires and other garbage. (source: TIMESONLINE)

Photo: NASA, public domain.

Not to drag you further into despair, but, well… I have some more bad news.

MSNBC host Ed Shultz called the 2010 Gulf oil spill, “ A weapon of mass destruction.” And the spill can be seen from the International Space Station (ISS). But The Gulf of Mexico is not the only eco tragedy, although, despite the amount of readily available oil, it is the squeakiest right now, capturing most–if not all–of the environmental disaster limelight. There’s another story that deserves equal—if not more—attention:

Chevron Dumps Billions of Toxic Waste into the Amazon

For over three decades, Chevron chose profit over people. While drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon from 1964 to 1990, Texaco – which merged with Chevron in 2001 – dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater and spilled roughly 17 million gallons of crude oil. Texaco carved out 350 oil wells, and upon leaving the country in 1992, left behind some 1,000 open toxic waste pits.

To save money, Texaco chose to use environmental practices that were obsolete, did not meet industry standards, and were illegal in Ecuador and the United States.

The result was, and continues to be, one of the worst environmental disasters on the planet. Contamination of soil, groundwater, and surface streams has caused local indigenous and campesino people to suffer a wave of mouth, stomach and uterine cancer, birth defects, and spontaneous miscarriages. Chevron has never cleaned up the mess it inherited, and its oil wastes continue to poison the rainforest ecosystem.

Today, 30,000 Ecuadorians are demanding justice in a landmark class action lawsuit. Despite Chevron’s repeated efforts to sabotage the trial, an independent court-appointed expert recently deemed Chevron responsible for up to $27 billion in damage. Check out this video…

My friend, rainforest activist and founder of the eco conscious apparel brand Rain tees, Beth Doane, recently returned from a month long journey across nearly the entire country of Ecuador, deep into the Amazon. The image below is definitely not what pops into my head when I hear the word Amazon. Yet, there it is.

Photo: Kellee Laser photography

“I visited some of the tragic sites where Chevron has been accused of dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon without cleaning it up,” Beth told me. “I saw children swimming in water with oil floating on top and saw some children who were dying of diseases like cancer”.

That’s it. I’m officially depressed.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon this quote:

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nature is running out of patience, waiting for us to come up with a solution to our environmental woes. It’s easy to get caught up in the news du jour, but let’s take a step back so we can  hear the other people (and animals) in the world that are calling for our help and attention.

Sometimes these events make us feel helpless, but here’s something you can do for the Equadorians: Sign the petition asking that Chevron finally do the right thing in Ecuador.

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One Response

  1. [...] note from Han Shan | Coordinator, Clean Up Ecuador Campaign The communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon have fought tirelessly to demand Chevron take responsibility for its toxic legacy. With a court [...]

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