Too many times business leaders let their greed overcome them, making profit the most important factor in the decision-making process. But while this may skyrocket the company to superstar status, and make a handful of shareholders wealthy, the consequences of choosing money over people and the earth are severe. Unfortunately, the ones who suffer the most have the weakest voice. Who will speak out for those that can’t? We live in a country where we pledge “liberty and justice for all”, yet we allow ourselves to disregard these values in situations beyond our borders.
This week in the Rainforest Newsladder we see the communities that have been devastated in the wake of a company’s race to success, and the brave groups and individuals refusing to take it anymore. We, along with our partner Rainforest Alliance, hope you join in the conversation and hear the words or those who have been silenced. First, we are brought to Ecuador, where its people have been struggling for over a decade to achieve justice in their lawsuit against the US oil giant, Chevron. The indigenous groups have brought a $27.3 billion claim against Chevron for the environmental destruction it allegedly created as Texaco in the Amazon rainforest of eastern Ecuador.With an interview from a local leader, this article provides an extremely candid look into what life has been like for those living in the mess Chevron left behind. Revealing that while we may have benefited from Chevron’s work, a community thousands of miles away was getting “exactly three things from the company: pollution, sickness and death; that’s it.”
The latest update in this case doesn’t bring hope to the 30,000 residents that “will continue to experience illness, birth defects and other maladies” because of the environmental hazards. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has ruled that Chevron can take the case to international arbitration, “claiming the government of Ecuador and the state-owned Petroecuador oil company is responsible for cleaning up the mess, not Chevron”.
In an eerily similar case of big oil vs. native people, the indigenous communities of the Peruvian Amazon are standing up against Occidental Petroleum. The most recent issue brought to court is whether the 9th US District Court of Appeals was right to send the pollution and public health lawsuit against the California-based oil company to Peru rather than keep it in the U.S. where it was filed. Like Chevron, Occidental wants to take the trial out of the US, taking advantage of a country where “Natives can never get justice.” But same as the people of Ecuador, thousands of Peruvians have had to endure the medical and environmental repercussions of having billions of gallons of toxic wastewater dumped directly into the rivers and streams they rely on to drink. These decisions have destroyed the inhabitants’ way of life, and while no court outcome, and no amount of money, can reverse the damage already done, these companies are refusing to accept any accountability.
Lastly, we see a community in Brazil desperately doing everything in its power to stop the government from allowing a similar environmental disaster from being built in their backyard. Over 100 organizations have signed a letter to President Lula da Silva, expressing “their outrage and opposition against Brazil’s plan to build Belo Monte, a mega-hydroelectric project”. These groups see what those who have been blinded by prospect of wealth can’t; that “Belo Monte would devastate an extensive area of the Brazilian rain forest, threatening the survival of indigenous peoples, and severely violating their rights”.
We must work towards making previous actions of injustice right, and prevent future accounts from occurring. Basic necessities, such as clean water, should not be taken for granted by some and remain a luxury for others. Our decisions impact more people than we will ever know, and if just a handful of people in power have been able to create disaster, a group of millions can help make a safer, cleaner, and healthier world for all. Become part of the conversation today; post the latest issues to the Rainforest Newsladder and visit our Facebook page.
James Boyce is the founder of Common Sense, an advertising agency supporting progressive causes like the Rainforest Alliance, Human Rights First, Natural Resources Defense Council, and others. James was one of the original contributors to The Huffington Post and is one of the top progressive bloggers in the country.
Image credit: Rainforest Action Network, courtesy Flickr