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A letter to our allies protesting at Chevron's shareholder meeting
by Paul Donowitz
On Wednesday, in San Ramon, California, Chevron will hold its annual shareholders’ meeting, and communities from around the globe are gathering to confront the oil giant on their unconscionable human rights and environmental record. For the past three years, ERI has joined with other members of the True Cost of Chevron Network in leading teach-ins, protests, press conferences, and other efforts to raise the voices of affected communities both inside and outside the annual meeting. We are unable to attend this year, but Paul Donowitz, ERI’s campaign director, wrote the following letter to express our ongoing solidarity with our allies’ efforts.
As you prepare to confront Chevron at tomorrow’s annual meeting and hold them to account for the impacts of their destructive practices in your communities and our global environment, I wanted to take a moment and once again express my solidarity with all of you, members of the amazing, inspiring, True Cost of Chevron Network.
I am saddened that I cannot join you this year. I have recently relocated to Thailand to focus more energy (the right kind of energy) on working with communities in Burma as they prepare for the onslaught of foreign direct investment in the extractive industries that will surely follow recent and ongoing political changes. I am constantly sharing with my new friends in Burma the cautionary tales and strategic advocacy strategies I have learned from all of you, and your experiences working tirelessly to defend the rights of people and the planet.
The True Cost of Chevron Network grew from the idea that communities and advocates needed to come together in solidarity to raise our voices to change the policies of an entire industry and policy-makers who continue to put profit over people and the plant. We formed a community, an extended family all committed to each other, to justice and equality for those fighting to save their ways of live and the health and their people.
We never imagined that out of these bonds would form collaborations and support networks that are having profound impacts on how the oil industry does their business. However, our struggle is long and difficult, and there will be more hard times ahead before our global community understands the dire, unsustainable consequences of a society built and sustained on oil. But the greater the challenge, the harder we will work, and the stronger our bonds will become as we join others in the greatest challenge of our time. We will, one day, create a truly sustainable global economy based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, our fragile and polluted planet, and communities whose power comes not from their material wealth, but from truth and wisdom on living in balance with our environment.
Tomorrow, I will miss our friends from Ecuador as they eloquently, and with great dignity, lecture Chevron CEO John Watson on how their streams and forest are dead and poisoned because of his company, and how now is the time to stop the lies, stop fighting, and finally do right by the people Texaco harmed.
I will miss Emem Okon and her powerful voice for the women and members of her communities who continue to suffer unimaginable environmental and social devastation from decades of oil pollution and corrupt practices in the Niger Delta.
I will miss our friends from Richmond, whose voices will never be silenced, and whose victories against Chevron on its home turf show the power of communities banding together. In the face of overwhelming political and economic power, they have achieved real justice for their people.
I will miss Sergey Solyanik from Khazakstan who fights tirelessly for communities in Karachaganak, who only ask to be moved to a safe location so they don't have to breath poisoned air and water and fear the ground underneath them will open up and swallow their children.
I will miss Gitz and Tom Evans, defending their native and first persons communities in Alberta, Canada and Cook Inlet, Alaska against tar sands and dangerous offshore drilling practices that permanently scar some of the most fragile, pristine, and sacred lands on the earth.
And I will miss the wonderful activists who work to support these communities and whose passion has no limits.
So, this year, I offer my congratulations on what will no doubt be a powerful display both inside the Chevron annual shareholders meeting, and outside on the streets for the world to hear. I am sorry I can't be there with you in person, but I and EarthRights International will continue to work alongside your communities in your struggle for justice and accountability.