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Wetlands Works Newsletter May 2000

Environmentalists Protest Environmental Group NRDC; NRDC Trustee - Gap Family's Bob Fisher - Destroys Redwoods

Wetlands' activists protested an "environmental" organization - the Natural Resources Defense Council -- at its celebrity-laden annual fundraiser at Lincoln Center on April 10.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) may do some good work; unfortunately, they are compromising themselves and some of the last 3% of our redwood forests by remaining uncritical of the Gap owners' involvement in clearcutting redwoods. Redwoods activists accuse the NRDC that this is probably because one of the Gap owners is on their board of trustees, and is a major funder of NRDC.

Bob Fisher, of the eleven billion dollar Fisher family (owners of the Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy), is one of the investors in the Gap-financed redwood-logging firm, the Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC), and sits on NRDC's Board of Trustees. This conflict of interest is made obvious by NRDC's greenwash of Bob Fisher as "a leader in our efforts to protect the environment. He has a strong commitment to forest conservation, and has been extremely valuable to NRDC in that area."

NRDC is also involved in helping the Gap owners' logging company, MRC, pursue a "green label" - essentially, a public relations strategy. (MRC was rejected by Smart Wood Certification last year.) NRDC even directs the inquiries of individuals concerned about MRC's logging to MRC's own website, instead of to environmental organizations concentrating on the campaign.

Resisting Texaco, Star Destroyer of the Ecuadorian Amazon

A 12 foot-long dinosaur skeleton puppet bearing a placard--"TOXICO: MAKING LIFE EXTINCT"--sauntered by the entrance to Texaco's annual shareholders' meeting held on a State University of New York Campus in Purchase, New York. Momentarily cordoned off by police, the Grim Reaper and 30 protesters, wielding signs and using 50 gallon oil barrels as drums, expressed their outrage at the multi-national corporation.

When Texaco's star rose over the rainforests of Ecuador, everything became black as night: rivers and streams, soil and air. For 26 years, Texaco drilled for oil in the Oriente region of Ecuador. During that time, their main pipeline, constructed on known fault lines, spilled 16.8 million gallons of crude oil, one and a half times the amount dumped during the Exxon Valdez disaster. In addition, 20 million gallons of highly toxic water discharged from their pipelines into what used to be pristine tropical rainforest. The roads punched through the dense vegetation and the hundreds of miles of pipelines for oil excavation led to the clearcutting of 2.5 million gallons of rainforest. First nations people, who for hundreds of years called the lands that Texaco invaded a home, were subject to a disturbing array of abuses.

Texaco claims the area was cleaned up as part of an agreement with the government of Ecuador. But researchers have documented that many of the waste pits weren't even touched, that oil spills were simply burned or buried, that contaminated soils were irresponsibly dumped in many areas.

Prior Ecuadorian administrations denounced the so-called "clean-up," but President Jamil Mahaud, since ousted, signed off on a deal, freeing Texaco from all future claims. The deal made a few Ecuadorian bureaucrats rich, provided a launching board for Texaco's greenwashcampaign, but did nothing substantial to make reparations to the people of Ecuador or clean up mess.

A landmark $1 billion class action suit against the corporation has been filed in a U.S. court by indigenous and local people on behalf of all those impacted by the corporation's oil operations. Texaco wants the case sent to Ecuador. A ruling by a U.S. court on whether Ecuador's judicial system is too corrupt to give the plaintiffs a fair hearing is awaited.

Human rights and environmental grassroots should not forget about this important hearing. Every oil corporation and many other of the multi-nationals are paying close attention tothis case, waiting on pins and needles to see if they can be held accountable for their destruction in the name of globalization.

Protestors resisted efforts by police to remove them from the demonstration and, eventually, negotiated to have protest contingents at both entrances of the Performing Arts Center where the shareholders' meeting was held.

"Texaco's 'business as usual' is not acceptable because their brand of 'business as usual' kills," said Joan Roney, an organizer at the demonstration. Inside, folks acting as proxies, went through a litany of Texaco's atrocities in Ecuador and demanded substantial clean-up and reparations. One concerned shareholder stated to those assembled at the meeting the following:

"International racism is unacceptable. Texaco has left behind a toxic mess that they would never get away with here in Purchase, New York. The corporation has taken advantage of politically disempowered indigenous communities."

Outside, entering and exiting shareholders found it hard not to notice the colorful signs or resonating barrel drums as demonstrators pounded rhythms and chanted. Many took brochures detailing Texaco's legacy of shame.