From Africa to the Amazon — Big Oil Gets a Pass

Veteran actor and activist Peter Coyote (SFChronicle.com, 5/30/09) writes about big media’s overriding response to the “Largest Environmental Lawsuit in History–Silence.” Taking a look at “the practices that are going on behind Chevron’s carefully cultivated ‘green’ image” as they “drill for oil in the jungles of the Ecuadorian Amazon,” Coyote does give credit to the Washington Post reporting of “several damning letters” like “an internal 1972 memo…instructing Texaco [now Chevron] officials in Ecuador to report only spills that attracted the attention of the news media.” Nonetheless:

This is a case of epic proportions, where our commons, the lungs of the planet, have been violated needlessly and carelessly, to save money with no thought whatsoever paid to the thousands of people, and millions of species, that would be poisoned while the American media basically slept. Those of you who may have noticed the cozy interview with the [executive vice] president of Chevron in the SF Chronicle last week might not have noticed the small article in the Chronicle‘s business section mentioning the protests outside of the Chevron stockholders meeting in San Ramon on May 26. Cofan Indian leader Ermenegildo Quillolo, and lead-American attorney for the defense Steve Danziger, Ecuadorian community organizer Luis Yanza, members of Amazon Watch and a host of NGOs seeking to protect the Amazon were there protesting the actions of Chevron, and alerting stockholders that their company paid $30 billion dollars for a company with $27 billion dollars of liabilities attached, a gross failure of due diligence. We, the public, were not offered a comparable interview with the Ecuadorians, Steven Danziger or members of Amazon Watch.

Even though “this spill dwarfs the Exxon Valdez,” Coyote notes that it, “aside from an excellent piece on 60 Minutes, remains virtually unreported. How many of you know about it? And if not, why not?” Listen to a similar story of oil company crimes and media neglect on the current FAIR radio program CounterSpin: “Han Shan on Shell & Ken Saro-Wiwa” (5/29/09).