Yesterday, David struck Goliath with a fearsome blow that sent shockwaves to the horizon.
Imagine yourself a small farmer in the remote Ecuadorian Amazon and that your community has been devastated by deliberate environmental destruction. Imagine that your children were born with birth defects or worse yet, died before your eyes due to contamination. Meanwhile, the mammoth oil company responsible for the destruction packs up and vacates your country, leaving behind death, disease and an extraction system designed to continue polluting. Now imagine that you are faced with the challenge of forcing the responsible party to repair the damaged land and waterways and to compensate you and your community for their loss. You would likely think it impossible. Add to that, the fact that you know it will take decades to achieve justice and you must find the strength to stand with your neighbors and fight quite possibly for the rest of your lives.
How would you react in the face of such a colossal challenge? The people of the Ecuadorian Amazon took on that struggle of a lifetime and yesterday the court made its decision -- Chevron is guilty. No, the water is not yet clean and many still suffer from cancers and other illnesses. Of course, no one's lost child will ever return, but these people are one important and enormous step closer to justice. They have done what no one else on earth has been able to do and they will keep on fighting until their land is clean and their water drinkable again. Of this I have no doubt.
Chevron, once Texaco, pioneered environmental destruction in the Amazon jungle. Sadly, they do not hold the monopoly in this area (see Occidental Petroleum for one), but they did set the precedent. In the 1960's Texaco decided that the rules didn't apply where poor indigenous communities lived -- and deliberately chose to pollute -- an area the size of Rhode Island in the pristine Amazonian rainforest of Ecuador. Chevron does not deny these facts, nor that they did it all to save $3 per barrel. Over the course of their operating in Ecuador they managed to dump over 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the surrounding environment. Again, setting a precedent for environmental destruction that has yet be to be matched. May Chevron go down in history, not for that, but for being the first major oil company to be brought to true justice for their reckless and deliberate acts of destruction.
I woke this morning thinking about my son Gabriel's third birthday. When I was three Texaco had already been poisoning the Amazon for years -- how old will Gabriel be when that damage is finally repaired? Yet, as I put my son to sleep this evening I am more hopeful than ever that we have a chance for justice against such overwhelming odds, thanks to the struggle of so many in Ecuador.
Chevron, you are officially the world's largest environmental criminal. You lost. Do the right thing and clean up the Amazon!
I work as the Director of Outreach and Online Strategy at Amazon Watch. The views expressed in this column are mine alone. Amazon Watch is proud to accompany the Ecuadorian communities affected by Chevron's deliberate contamination in the Amazon for over a decade. During the course of our lengthy campaign, Amazon Watch has also allied with the legal team responsible for one of the most important environmental victories in history by achieving a $9.5 billion judgement against Chevron affirmed by the Supreme Court of Ecuador in a 222-page decision that meticulously documents the company's environmental crimes, fraud, bribery, and subterfuge during the long eight-year trial.