Die Off In The Rainforest  

Posted by Big Gav

One of the most dire misfortunes that can befall any group of indiginous people is to find themselves living nearby to a supply of oil.

ChevronTexaco investors are in for an unsettling interlude when they gather for the annual shareholders' meeting at company headquarters in San Ramon April 27. Two indigenous Amazonian leaders, as well as numerous concerned local citizens, are set to interrupt the drab, predictable corporate discourse with testimonials about Texaco's toxic legacy in Ecuador. Humberto Piaguaje, who's lost two family members to different strains of cancer, will be among them.

"Crude Reflections: ChevronTexaco's Rainforest Legacy," an exhibit of 50 photographs taken by Bay Area photographers Lou Dematteis and Kayana Szymczak and documenting what some experts say is the worst environmental devastation caused by an oil company in the history of the planet, opened at a nearby restaurant April 25 and will help reinforce the Ecuadorans' case.

Increasingly, oil industry analysts are pointing to an impending crisis that's likely to result in a surge of these kinds of offenses around the globe, as oil companies vie for a dwindling supply of the black gold that fuels our economy. The analysts refer to the phenomenon as "peak oil".

"The idea of peak oil is that oil's finite, and once you've reached the halfway point of a particular field, it's progressively harder to keep your daily production [rate] the same," Paul Roberts, Harper's magazine contributor and author of "The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World" told us. As we reach the global peak, oil becomes harder to extract and prices begin to climb – with dire consequences for economies predicated on oil for everything from manufacturing to heating and air conditioning, transportation, and "defense."

And as it gets harder and harder to extract oil from below the earth, companies will go to greater and greater lengths – with the potential for even further environmental disaster and human tragedy – to find those last few drops.

Iraq – with oil reserves rivaling, or possibly exceeding, those of Saudi Arabia – is obviously in the eye of the storm. "But even if you look at Colombia, the U.S. is indirectly getting drawn into the conflict there, by providing money and to some extent personnel to guard oil export pipelines," Michael Renner, senior researcher at Worldwatch Institute, told us. "There are now a whole number of either permanent or temporary U.S. military bases that have come into place after 9/11 in the name of the war on terror." What we're seeing, he said, is "a militarization of energy policy."

Of course, a related crisis – infinitely graver than the one felt by whiny SUV drivers at U.S. gas stations – has already walloped northern Ecuador's Amazon region, where, advocates say, at least five indigenous groups face possible extinction thanks to millions, and possibly billions, of gallons of toxic sludge left in Texaco's wake.

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2 comments

The biggest threat to the rain forest is not oil pipelines.

It is drug prohibition and the expansion of slash and burn farming.

I don't understand why "enviros" don't put more effort into ending prohibition.

Did I mention Vietnam like ariel spraying?

Liberation in Iraq and repression in Colombia. So where do the lefties focus - on the liberation of course.

You seem to have misunderstood the point of the post - the threat being discussed is not to the rainforest (I'd agree oil pipelines aren't the major threat to the rainforest itself) but the the inhabitants of it.

And clearly the oil extraction process is having a very negative impact on them.

The question is - how can this be prevented and the local inhabitants be compensated for the terrible toll this is taking on them ?

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