Saturday, September 24, 2005

Spirit of Place

I have to thank Pippala Leaf for linking to the photographer Phil Borges's website. I was not aware of his work before this. Phil is truly an amazing photographer. A must must visit.

I was particularly moved by his work titled Spirit of Place: People of endangered culture;People of indigenous culture. One of his photographs is of a Ecuadorian Secoya Indian child named Yadira. He writes...

"Yadira is one of 320 Secoya Indians living along the Aguarico river in Ecuador's northern Amazon. Since oil was discovered in 1972, more oil has been spilled in this area than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska. The Aguarico river has been covered by over a foot of oil on several occasions. In this time, the Secoya have seen most of the animals in their territory disappear. Today an oil company is again trying to start seismic exploration in Secoya territory"

Though Phil doesn't name the oil company, a quick google search will reveal the name. It is none other than Texaco, now ChevronTexaco. Texaco was able to get the Ecuadorian government declare vast areas of the Amazon forests inhabited by the Secoya and many other Indian tribes as "vacant" . The rest, is not history it is a sordid crime.

As puts it - "During the 20-year period, Texaco pumped 1.5 billion barrels of oil from Ecuador -- most of it bound for California markets. By the time the company pulled out, environmentalists estimate that Texaco had dumped more than 19 billion gallons of waste and spilled 16.8 million gallons of crude oil, the capacity of an oil tanker 11/2 times the size of the Exxon Valdez"

For the natives of the land, who have died and are dying of cancer, this is not history, this is human rights violation. Not surprisingly, Texaco refuses to accept these claims and have indicated that their $40 million clean up effort made every wrong, right.

In 1993, a class-action lawsuit against Texaco was filed in New York by an Ecuadorian-American environmentalist lawyer on behalf of 30,000 indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon. After a decade of legal wrangling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, on August 2002, ruled that the Ecuadorian judicial system's decision would be legally binding on the parent corporation in the United States. That ruling was probably a historic first.... A foreign court being given the right to try a US corporation. A $1bn lawsuit.
The trial began in August 2003.

Progress has been slow. The trial continues till date. Soil samples submitted to the court last month shows that the soil contains levels of TPH (Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons) to be 250 times higher than what is allowed in the US. This finding is damaging to Texaco. It has always maintained that their $40 million clean up effort has restored the land. A verdict is expected by early 2007. is an international campaign trying to hold Texaco accountable. They are actively monitoring the trial.

The growing energy needs of a teeming human population is putting Amazon forests under immense pressure. Oil companies are actively seeking ways of extracting the oil buried deep under these forests. [Sigh!]

In my photography class, the teacher asked me this question, "What makes a great photograph ?" . I didn't have a good answer then. I do have one now... A great photograph is something that moves me. Makes we want to know more. Makes me want to do something about it.

Quote of the day
"Your grandchildren will likely find it incredible - or even sinful - that you burned up a gallon of gasoline to fetch a pack of cigarettes!" ~Dr. Paul MacCready, Jr.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Damn Texaco. Those are absolutely stunning photos. The thing that makes a photo great for me, is that it draws me in. Those eyes! They say, "come with me....I want to show you something...." It's as if I've met each one of those people personally. Thank you for sharing the link!