Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Sordid Story

While it is yet too early to tell how the new Trudeau government will handle the environmental and climate change file, early indications are promising. Minster Catherine McKenna has said that with regard to future pipeline proposals,
assessments will be “based on science” and ensure Canadians can participate in the hearings. During the campaign, the Liberals slammed the review procedures – put in place during Conservative rule – as inadequate and pledged that pipeline assessments would include upstream impacts of crude extraction.
Lord knows that the oil interests cannot be trusted to police themselves, as the sad and corrupt tale of Nigeria, Shell Oil, and the late Ken Saro-Wiwa amply demonstrate.

Saro-Wiwa, a passionate Nigerian environmental and human-rights activist, has been dead for 20 years, executed on trumped-up charges, the apparent victim of collusion between a corrupt military and Big Oil.
It was Shell that Mr. Saro-Wiwa was campaigning relentlessly against in 1995 when Nigeria’s military government arrested him. And it is Shell that continues to operate about 50 oil fields and 5,000 kilometres of pipelines in the Niger Delta today.
Although he died for his cause, that cause is yet unfulfilled:
The lands of his Ogoni people, in southeastern Nigeria, continue to be contaminated by oil, and thousands of people are still reported to be exposed to the pollution, despite repeated promises of a cleanup.

A report released this month by Amnesty International concludes that the giant oil multinational Shell has failed to clean up the pollution from its southern Nigerian pipelines and wells. Shell is the biggest international oil producer in the Niger Delta, which is the biggest oil-producing region in Africa – and one of the most polluted places on the planet.
And while Shell Oil has made its mea culpa over what transpired in the land of the Ogoni, the fact is it has done little to reverse the harm and environmental despoliation it has caused:
[A] 38-page Amnesty International report says it is Shell itself that is breaking its promises in the region. Amnesty’s researchers visited four oil-spill sites that Shell said it had cleaned up years ago. They found soil and water still blackened and contaminated by oil, even though people were living and farming nearby. “Anyone who visits these spill sites can see and smell for themselves how the pollution has spread across the land,” said a statement by Mark Dummett, an Amnesty business and human rights researcher.

One contractor, hired by Shell to help clean up a spill site, told Amnesty: “This is just a cover-up. If you just dig down a few metres, you find oil.”
It is an egregious corporate failure that has not gone unnoticed by Amnesty International:
“It is heartbreakingly tragic to see how 20 years after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa … we see very little has changed: the oil spills have not stopped, and Shell still has not cleaned up this huge environmental degradation,” said a statement by M.K. Ibrahim, the Amnesty director in Nigeria.

“In the 20 years since Saro-Wiwa was executed, thousands of villagers in the Niger Delta have still not been able to drink clean water, nor farm on their land, nor fish in their waters,” he said. “This oil pollution is wrecking lives.”
And government corruption, it would seem, continues, as reflected in the customs seizure of this:

The above, called the "battle bus," is a
full-sized steel bus, created by British-Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp in 2006, [which] carries oil barrels on its roof and is emblazoned with one of Saro-Wiwa’s most stark and enduring phrases: “I accuse the oil companies of practising genocide against the Ogoni.”
Intended to inspire Nigerian youth to be vigilant and hold the government and oil companies to their promises of environmental remediation, the sculpture has instead
become a symbol of the ongoing censorship of communities in Nigeria and it has also made explicit the links between the violence and corruption and the influence the oil companies . . . have in the region.”
Back here in Canada our new government, unlike the old with its virtual blank-cheque mentality for all things resource-related, will indeed do well to keep in mind the true nature of the oil multinationals and legislate and regulate them accordingly.


  1. Hi, Lorne. In today's Globe there's an encouraging article claiming that Trudeau has put in place a policy that climate change will be the focus of every ministry in the federal cabinet. Dion says that, henceforth, every policy, every initiative will have to take climate change into account. It sounds almost too good to be true. May we live in hope.

    1. Thanks, Mound. I read the article just a few minutes ago, and it does sound encouraging. I also hope that the Liberals act quickly to phase out subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. I just read the following:

      "The G20 spent an average $78 billion on national subsidies delivered through direct spending and tax breaks in 2013 and 2014, according to a report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on Thursday."