Call Chevron to Account for Its Assault on the Amazonian Ecosystem

News & Politics

To say that Chevron (formerly Texaco) has unleashed an environmental hell in the Ecuadorian Amazon would be a gruesome understatement.

Over the last 28 years, the company has dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic formation waters into the Oriente, a river that about 30,000 native people depend on for bathing, drinking and cooking.

In 1995, Chevron vowed to "clean up" the mess it had made, but the actual effort was pathetic. Less than 1 percent of the 350 drilling sites it had opened were adequately dealt with, and most of the others were simply covered with a thin layer of dirt. Leftover crude byproducts were burned off into the atmosphere.

Today, the surrounding populations continue to suffer from decades of irresponsible ecocide. Studies have linked 1,401 cancer deaths, as well as an unusually high rate of miscarried pregnancies, to oil contamination. And across many villages, children endure a variety of birth defects and disfigurements.

There is good news in all of this: the affected communities are fighting back. Their lawsuit against Chevron, first filed in 1993, gained steam in November 2008 when a court-appointed expert estimated the amount of damages to be between $7 billion and $16.3 billion. If won, it would be a step toward calling the oil giant to account. It would also send a pointed message to other huge conglomerates hoping to exploit people for profits.

Chevron, meanwhile, has promised a lifetime of jury fees and a legal quagmire to anyone who dares challenge it. It's also trying to get the charges thrown out based "judicial misconduct" -- a claim that simply sidesteps the real issues.

The trial's verdict "will either put multinational corporations on notice that they can and will be held accountable for environmental and human rights abuses anywhere in the world, or it will give them the green light to continue operating with business-as-usual impunity," according to, an advocacy group.

See that no such green light is illuminated. Help call Chevron to account. 

(To learn more, check out Crude, the film Chevron doesn't want you to see.)

Here are the rest of our Take Action campaigns this week:

II -- No New Powers to the Fed 

The Federal Reserve, which failed to prevent 2008's monumental economic collapse, has in effect become an arm of the banks. It exists without any oversight and continues to jeopardize the futures of America's taxpayers.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is proposing legislation that would expand the Fed's power by giving it full discretion to diagnose systemic risk. This plan is a huge mistake: It will sanction endless bailouts and ultimately put in charge an institution whose incompetence has already cost America billions.

You can help stop this move. Call on Congress to hire a panel of regulators that would operate independently of the banks. 

III -- Urge Lawmakers to Pass Meaningful Health Reform 

With the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Democratic efforts to pass meaningful health reform are wobbling precariously. What once could have been a filibuster-proof consensus is now one vote short of a guarantee, and Republicans are showing no sign of letting up.

For this reason, making your voice heard is extremely important. Nearly three-quarters of America wants a new health care plan that includes a public option, but opponents of reform will fight tooth and nail to keep their salaries padded and their pockets bulging.

Together, we can counter this plan and enact strong reform. But we must act now.

IV -- Keep the Heat on Glenn Beck's Advertisers 

Glenn Beck's racist tirades are paranoid and inexcusable. They point both to an individual's fantasies of white superiority and to an entire network's sanctioning of hate. Even as Beck's advertisers flee like spooked pigeons, Fox continues to air his show.

This is because Fox only speaks the language of dollars and cents. In order to smother Beck's rigorous ignorance, we need to hit the network where it hurts: its wallet. Join the many who have called on Beck's advertisers to stop promoting hate.

V -- Stop Global-Warming Deniers 

Despite mountains of evidence, the United States Chamber of Commerce is threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over global warming's scientific legitimacy. This effort to "put the science of climate change on trial" undermines the EPA's ability to battle a worldwide threat.

With your help, this issue can be put to rest. Send a letter to the Chamber of Commerce's member companies telling them that global warming is real. Let them know that responsible companies should take the issue seriously.

VI -- Help Afghan Women 

Although there have been considerable efforts on the part of the U.S. government and the United Nations to improve the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan, many still lack basic human rights.

The Afghan Women Empowerment Act, introduced into the Senate by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will provide resources for literary education, vocational and technical training and health care to women in Afghanistan. With your help, it will grant thousands of people new opportunities.

Act now. Tell your senator to co-sponsor the Afghan Women Empowerment Act here.

VII -- Protect the Arctic Ocean 

The Arctic Ocean is one of the world's last remaining pristine marine ecosystems and home to a rich variety of animal life. But temperatures there are warming at twice the rate of any other area on earth, and the populations of many species are dwindling.

Decisions that the Obama administration is now making about oil drilling in the Arctic are crucial to the preservation of an ecosystem already teetering on the brink of disaster. It's essential you make your voice heard. Urge Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to ditch Bush-Era policies of reckless exploration. It's not too late.

VIII -- Pass the Employee Non-Discrimination Act

Did you know that it's legal in 29 states to fire someone for being gay? Were you aware that it's legal in 38 states (over three-quarters of America) to fire someone simply because he or she is transgender?

GLBT citizens continue to lack many of the basic freedoms granted to straight people, and thousands have lost their livelihoods simply because of who they are. The Employee Non-Discrimination Act is an immensely important piece of legislation now before the Senate that would outlaw firing someone because of sexual orientation or identity.

ENDA was only recently introduced in its most inclusive form, and it's up to the public to let policymakers know just how important it is. Make your mark on history here.

IX -- Free Aung Sun Suu Kiy 

Recently, Nobel Prize-winning democracy activist Aung Sun Suu Kiy was sentenced to 18 months of house arrest by Myanmar authorities. The punishment will in effect silence her during the country's upcoming elections.

Many Western countries are pushing for U.N. Security Council action and an arms embargo against the country; but China and Russia, both crucial veto powers, are likely to stop any meaningful challenges from taking place. They have defended Myanmar's human-rights violations in the past.

Without their cooperation, an important voice will not be heard. Please join more than 25,000 others who have asked China and Russia to support pressure on Myanmar. You can do it here.

X -- Don't Let Women Lose Reproductive Health Coverage

Since the right began its smear/fear campaign against Obama's health care plan, the question of whether women's private health insurance should provide them with safe reproductive services has been thrown to the forefront of debate.

The argument is nothing new. But this time, the frenzy of anti-choicers has snagged the ear of policymakers in Washington. It's up to us to make sure they do the right thing. Write them today. Tell them not to strip women's insurance providers of an important and legal right.

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