Last night here in Houston, Texas, at a public forum organized by the True Cost of Chevron Coalition, I heard stories from women and men who had traveled for days before arriving for the Chevron shareholder meeting. I was rocked by their experiences, each one a bold sharing from courageous activists. Many of them put their own lives on the line to go public with what they know. I am here to speak for the voiceless sea turtle, while they are here to speak for their lives and those of their children, partners and families — some of whom have been lost.
Mariana Jimenez is a 70-year-old grandmother of 27, mother of 7, and a campesina who settled in Ecuador’s rainforest in 1971 when Texaco first started drilling in the Amazon region. She said that she represented 30,000 people displaced by oil operations in her country. She told about ponds turning black with oil, black smoke in her village and illness. I understood her even in Spanish because her anguish and determination were equally strong when delivering her message to Chevron to clean up. She lost her sister to cancer, two infant nephews to poisoned water and even her pigs have died.
Debra Barros Fince also shook the room with her description of the hardships and oppression she and other women face in Colombia due to an oil pipeline. In April 2004, her community was attacked by paramilitary forces and permanently removed. She is the Director of Wayuumunsurat and a lawyer representing the Wayuu people.
From Nigeria, Emem Okon fiercely explained how women in the Niger Delta suffer from oil operations and discrimination in rural communities. She organizes women to become active in protecting themselves from oppression, violence and environmental harm. The armed conflict in the region that has arisen after decades of oil company brutality has made things dangerous for everyone there. She is the Executive Director of the Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre.
There are far too many stories to recap here, and I can’t begin to tell them properly. But these and the other people who came from places in the U. S. and around the world made the horror of Chevron and other big oil’s operations more real than ever before. This is not just a campaign or anti-oil hysteria. No matter what Chevron, the the corporate media or anyone else says in their denial or guilt, our use of oil in the U. S. is a cause of great pain and suffering.
Read some of their stories at the True Cost of Chevron website, http://truecostofchevron.com/