June 6, 2012 - What do Arctic drilling and drone killing have in common? They are both being decided by Barack Obama without public debate. Also oil is a common ground—drilling will produce it and drones will burn it—to kill people, animals, and habitats. Both issues must be debated publicly. You have read about drone killing, I'll tell you about Arctic drilling.
"The UN Environment Programme has announced that Shell and other oil firms systematically contaminated a 1,000 sq km (386 sq mile) area of Ogoniland, in the Niger delta, with disastrous consequences for human health and wildlife. Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International and director of Environment Rights Action in Nigeria said the pollution had decimated the livelihoods of the Ogoni people."—The Guardian reported in an August 4, 2011 article.
Timeline of Shell's oil pollution in the Niger delta (first few items). Courtesy: worsethanbad.org/Friends of the Earth Netherlands.
On May 11, I received an email from Valesca Mulder of the Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie. She wrote, "You have written various interesting article about Shell. That is why I think that the brand new international campaign of Friends of the Earth might interest you. With our new campaign, called Worse Than Bad (www.worsethanbad.org), we demand immediate action from Shell to take responsibility for the pollution they have caused. As you probably know, we have started a legal case against Shell Nigeria and its parent company in the Netherlands. It is the first time in history that a Dutch company must appear before a Dutch court to account for damage caused abroad." I'd urge you to please visit the amazingly put together website worsethanbad.org, spend some time, and share with others what you find. There you will see as Valesca Mulder wrote to me, "all the facts in a unique timeline we have created, a historical overview of Shell activities in Nigeria." A May 21 press release from the Friends of the Earth International states:
"On the eve of the annual general meeting of oil giant Shell, Friends of the Earth International announced that it will deliver to Shell CEO Peter Voser some 70,000 signatures of people who want Shell to start cleaning up its mess in the oil–rich and highly polluted Niger delta in Nigeria. Friends of the Earth Netherlands campaigners will stand outside the May 22 Shell meeting and offer to Shell shareholders the opportunity to taste a sip of contaminated water from the Niger delta: water with hydrocarbons such as benzene, but also other hazardous chemicals such as barium. This is the only 'drinking' water, which many residents of the Niger delta can drink. Over the past decades Shell let tens of millions of litres of oil to stream into the Niger delta by refusing to properly maintain the pipeline network. Moreover, the AngloDutch multinational still does not comply with the Nigerian ban on gas flaring. Because Shell is doing so little, Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie started an international campaign which members of the public can support at www.worsethanbad.org."
The press release includes a quote by Nnimmo Bassey:
"Shell continues to reap obscene profits from the oil fields of Nigeria at the expense of the lives and the livelihoods of the poor people. As we speak Shell is intensifying its poisoning of the environment and the peoples of the region. By our records Shell had over 200 oil spills in 2011 alone and the 2012 tally is rising already. Shell must stop the poisoning and start cleaning up its mess right now."
On Monday over a phone conversation Leah Donahey, Western Arctic and Oceans Program Director at the Alaska Wilderness League told me that the conservation groups "delivered more than one million comments to oppose Shell's Arctic drilling" to the Obama administration on May 14; they are "working on organizing vigils with Iñupiat people when Shell's ships show up in the Arctic"; and "legal suits to oppose Arctic Ocean drilling will continue"; and they will "raise visibility about the issue."
Subhankar Banerjee is a photographer, writer, and activist. Over the past decade he has worked tirelessly for the conservation of ecoculturally significant areas of the Arctic, and to raise awareness about indigenous human rights and climate change. He founded ClimateStoryTellers.org, and is editor of the anthology Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2012).
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