Ecuador VS. Chevron : A Decades-Long Battle Continues

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Ecuador VS. Chevron : A Decades-Long Battle Continues

Amazon Watch is an Oakland, CA based non-profit advocating for the rights of indigenous communities in the Amazon for the past 3 decades. When Do-Gooder visited Ecuador in 2011 to visit communities affected by environmental contamination left behind by Chevron, Amazon Watch was integral in making that happen. We recently caught up with Paul Paz y Mino, AW's Director of Outreach and Online Strategy to discuss their ongoing efforts as Chevron's Annual Shareholder Meeting approaches on May 27th, 2015. 

 

DG:For those who are new to this issue, can you give us a little background on AW's involvement with Chevron?

 

PPM: Chevron, operating as Texaco, was the first oil company to drill for oil in the Amazon. Its operations began in the mid 1960s and continued until the company pulled out in 1992. It left after having created the worst oil-related environmental catastrophe in history. The company deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic wastewater into rivers and streams, spilled millions of gallons of crude oil, and abandoned hazardous waste in hundreds of unlined open-air pits littered throughout the region. The result is widespread devastation of the rainforest ecosystem and a massive health crisis for local and indigenous communities.

In 2011, one of the most important environmental victories in history was achieved when a $9.5 billion judgment as issued against Chevron and later affirmed by the Supreme Court of Ecuador in a 222-page decision that meticulously documents the company's environmental crimes, fraud, bribery, and subterfuge during the long eight-year trial.

Since 2002, Amazon Watch and our Clean Up Ecuador Campaign has been working with shareholders, consumers, and other concerned people to support justice for the communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon. We have campaigned vigorously for years to expose Chevron’s actions and organize the global community to support the call for justice for Chevron’s deliberate act of contamination and human rights abuse.

Amazon Watch and our allies, including Amnesty International, have exposed the leadership at Chevron as having approved deliberate pollution, lied to shareholders, bribed witnesses, falsified evidence, hidden the damning truth about their actions and led the company down a path that violated the First Amendment rights of its critics.

 

DG: AW has a long history of attending the CVX shareholder meetings. What have you learned from the process?

 

PPM: Amazon Watch has helped to pioneer shareholder advocacy work on behalf of human rights and the environment. Accompanying members of the affected communities have time and again dominated the Chevron shareholder meeting and forced company executives to respond to their critics. Partnering with shareholders controlling billions of dollars in assets under management we have helped to show that corporate leadership can not simply act without repercussion from their own shareholders. This movement continues to grow and over time and can change the climate of corporate abuse of the environment and human rights. Many shareholders care deeply about changing Chevron’s behavior and continue to exercise their authority to call for accountability and change. At a recent meeting, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli joined with 39 other investors, with a combined total of $580 billion in assets under management, to call on Chevron to settle its decades-long legal battle in Ecuador.

 

DG: Can you share with us successes, failures or memorable moments in this battle?

 

PP:Every year our work to shine a light on Chevron’s environmental and human rights crimes at the shareholder meeting are effective at preventing Chevron leadership from ignoring the truths of their actions. Several years ago, we led the creation of the True Cost of Chevron Network, a coalition of NGOs partnering with affected communities in Nigeria, Ecuador, the Philippines, Burma, Argentina, Australia, Richmond, California and several other countries. This group has persisted in pressuring Chevron to change its practices and forced its executives to respond to critics. Most importantly, individuals from around the globe who have lost family members and sometimes entire communities to Chevron’s contamination, have been given a chance to confront Chevron leadership and speak to the global press. It has personally been incredibly inspiring to join the hundreds of activists who stand solidarity with survivors of Chevron’s contamination each year.

However, in 2010, Chevron forcibly, and illegally, removed members of our coalition despite their possession of legal proxies to enter the meeting. Chevron’s leadership violated the rights of its own shareholders in an effort to silence the voices of its critics. Many had travelled thousands of miles and left families behind to make the trip to Houston to confront Chevron, yet were turned away. Of course, this only drew greater attention from the international press and exposed the true culture of Chevron’s leadership.

 

DG: There have been some controversies in the press surrounding the Chevron/Ecuador case on both sides. For those who are unclear on the issue, can you clarify us on the facts?

 

PPM: Chevron’s response to losing the trial and both appeals has been to attack Ecuador, its courts, the human rights lawyers, Ecuadorian communities and the environmental and human rights community supporting them. The company has spent millions of dollars to create a false story of bribery and corruption in Ecuador based on falsified evidence, edited film clips and the paid testimony of a corrupt ex-judge. It has accused the very people it deliberately poisoned of extortion and claims they fabricated their case. This entire effort has been intended to distract attention away from the reality of its actions in Ecuador and delegitimize the case against it. Chevron has tried to win by might what it could never win by merit by hiring 60 law firms and over 2000 legal professionals to file SLAPP suits against its critics. In fact, Amnesty International joined Amazon Watch and over a dozen other human rights and environmental organizations to oppose this attack on free speech and corporate accountability efforts.

The facts are that Chevron admitted to the deliberate dumping in Ecuador, was found liable for $9.5 billion after eight years of trial in the forum of its choosing exposed its sham remediation process. Over 100 technical reports of evidence were used to convict Chevron, and much of the evidence came from Chevron’s own court filings. In fact, videos given to Amazon Watch by a Chevron whistleblower show the company finding toxic contamination during the trial at sites it swore to have cleaned up.

 

 DG: You've met many people on this journey. Can you share a personal story of an individual/family affected by this company?

 

PPM: I have been fortunate to visit and get to know many of the people in Ecuador who have fought for justice bravely for many years in the face of Chevron’s threats and attacks. Emergildo Criollo, a leader of the Cofan people, inspires me most to this day. Emergildo remembers when the first Texaco helicopters arrived in his community when he was a young boy. He grew up witnessing his contamination and has spent his entire life fighting for the right to live in a clean environment. Emergildo lost two children to Chevron’s contamination. As a parent myself I can imagine the strength it must take for Emergildo to continue confronting Chevron year after year carrying the pain of his loss.

Emergildo’s dignity and perseverance have never once faltered despite the many times he has stood face to face with those responsible for the deaths in his family and the near destruction of his community. Emerigildo remains a powerful and inspiring leader and today he is working with our allies at the Clearwater project to help his and other indigenous communities to install and maintain rainwater catchment systems to filter out deadly pollutants and help affected communities survive.

 

DG: How can we support AW and CVX social justice/environmental coalition's work?

PPM: Amnesty International has often supported our work and this campaign to hold Chevron accountable. The Business and Human Rights program has attended previous shareholder meetings, organized demonstrations, generated actions and even supported legal actions to fight back against Chevron’s attacks on free speech. With participation from the many NGOs in the True Cost of Chevron network, we’re holding another demonstration at this year’s shareholder meeting at 7am on Wednesday May 27th at the Chevron headquarters in San Ramon, California. We would welcome Amnesty activists to stand alongside others from the Sierra Club, 350.org, Rainforest Action Network, Friends of the Earth and other groups. For those who can’t make it in person the True Cost of Chevron site has several on-line actions and we encourage support on social media to spread the word. Follow @amazonwatch and @truecostchevron to learn more.

Most importantly, we count on the human rights community to expose Chevron’s environmental and human rights crimes and reject its lies and attacks on those working to hold it accountable in Ecuador and around the globe.

 

- Tony Cruz, Do-Gooder Founder

 

If you would like to help bring clean water to our friends and family in the Amazon, please make a donation here. Thank you!

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Travis van Rijn- Comic Do-Gooder

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Travis van Rijn- Comic Do-Gooder

Travis van Rijn is a rising comic talent and has been a devout supporter of Do-Gooder. But not only is he one funny schmuck, he also gives a fu@k about the world and fears its ultimate demise if we don't do something. (Don't get him started on organized religion. Yikes!. Ha ha). But all joking aside, Travis is one of those guys who'll jump in and do anything for a friend or someone in need. We're proud to support his endeavors as he has been a part of the Do-Gooder family for many years. This week, Do-Gooder will be at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, Saturday, March 28th @ 6:00 p.m as Travis opens up for Bryan Callen (Mad TV and the Hangover). Recently, we caught up to do this cheesy but informative interview. Enjoy.

 

DG: Why did you want to become a comedian?

TVR: George Carlin. Plus I've always enjoyed performing. I did theater when I was young. Stand up seemed the simplest to pursue in that you only have to rely on yourself. 

 

DG: What makes a good comic?

TVR: Being George Carlin. Haha. For me a good comic/comedian entertains as well as educates. They speak truths...well attempt to...and try to create awareness.

 

DG: Have you ever choked or been heckled?

TVR: Yes. I cut my set short after forgetting it and trying to fill in by grasping for thoughts and ended up telling unfinished material. It was the worst. As far as heckled, I dealt with a drunk guy at a bar who thought he was part of the show cuz it was his birthday. I partially shut him down and finished my set. Later the bartender made him leave. He claimed he'd never come back. His wife stayed behind for the rest of the show.  She said it wasn't the first time he'd threatened not to return. Haha creatures of habit we are.

 

DG: What's the biggest joke we deal with as society?

TVR: Communication. Or lack thereof. ..which lends itself to comedy a lot I think. That and the US Congress. Which proves my first point.

 

DG: When was the last time you laughed so hard you peed your pants?

TVR: Well the show Community has amazing writing and it makes me laugh so hard I cry. So I guess it makes my eyes pee.

 

DG: Tell us something interesting or unusual about stand up.

TVR: It's incredibly exhausting. The open mic grind is tough. Because it's all just comics waiting for their 5 minutes to test new stuff and no one is paying attention. But you get to meet great people who are as jaded as yourself. 

 

DG: Who is a comic genius that you respect?

TVR: So many...George Carlin, obviously. He made me realize the impact comedy makes on people. And Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart because they showed me the impact comedy can have on public policy.

 

DG: Give us an example of new material. We promise to be kind.

TVR: Something about that manned mission to Mars in the news being ruined because of two people in the program that are bitter sports rivals...I dunno...they create a Lord of the Flies scenario or something...

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Roger Hunter: NASA Do-Gooder

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Roger Hunter: NASA Do-Gooder

Last year, as I waited for a flight home to San Francisco from Dulles International Airport, I met Roger Hunter, former Project Manager of the Kepler program at NASA. We quickly became friends and started texting jokes back and forth on the plane about a screaming child sitting next to him. After a quick Google search on Roger and downing my glass of wine in First Class, I thought, "This is wrong. This situation should really be in reverse. This guy’s the MAN!”

During our first dinner he shared in detail with me his incredible work with NASA. One cannot help but be blown away and intimidated listening to Roger talk about his extensive work with Kepler. After all, what's bigger than trying to find sustainable life on other planets? But what's even more impressive is that he's also kind, humble and cares about changing the world.

 

DG: What were your dreams as a kid?

RH: To go to college and become a scientist or doctor of some sort.  I wasn't sure what kind of doctor or scientist. I varied from brain surgeon (HA!) to working at NASA.  As a kid I remember watching one of the early Apollo tests as it re-entered the atmosphere after several orbits. I was in my parents' front yard, waiting on the school bus one morning, and the space capsule came screaming across the sky as we were told by the local television station.  It was an amazing sight and I thought it would be cool to work at NASA.

 

DG: How did you arrive at NASA?

RH: I was working for the Boeing Corporation at an office in Colorado Springs.  My team of engineers and technicians were supporting the Global Positioning System and managing its maintenance activities for a US Air Force organization. I had been with Boeing for 7 1/2 years after retiring from the Air Force. I received a phone call from a NASA representative in January 2008, asking me if I'd like a position with NASA. I asked what kind of position and it was as the Project Manager for the Kepler Mission.  I had to ask, “What's the Kepler Mission?” I knew of Johannes Kepler from my Math and Physics courses in college -- but I didn't know of a NASA Kepler Mission.  After the NASA official explained the mission's objective, which was to do a census of planets in our Galaxy, and determine if there are other potentially habitable worlds, I had to say yes!  So, I departed Boeing and Colorado Springs for NASA Ames Research Center.  For the next 6 years, I worked with a very special team on the Kepler Mission.  The results have been astonishing -- there are more planets than stars.  Look at the sky at night -- on average, there is at least one planet for each star.  And, according to one analysis of the Kepler data, one out of every 5 stars harbors a potential earth-like world!

Last year, I transitioned off of the Kepler Mission to lead an effort to further the progress and development of smaller spacecraft, their technologies, and their abilities to do science.  Technology has progressed and continues to progress to allow spacecraft that we call "Cube-Sats" or "Nano-sats" or "small spacecraft" to do the same or more than larger spacecraft of the past. The sky is not the limit ... there is tremendous potential there to be realized.  I'm hoping to help establish a virtual institute across NASA and join with academic institutions to exploit this new opportunity.

 

DG: What has been the most rewarding part of your work?

RH: The most rewarding part of my work has been working with the great scientists and engineers at NASA.  They are extremely bright and hard-working folks.  I've continued to learn more from them as my admiration for them has also grown.  NASA has such a brain trust of great folks -- give them any challenge!

 

DG: Interstellar vs. Gravity: GO!

RH: It's Interstellar, hands-down.  There were so many things wrong with Gravity from the orbital mechanics mess-ups, a "medical doctor" working on a space telescope, an "astronaut" playing around in his orbital maneuvering pack while a colleague is working, Clooney's reckless character, getting from ISS to the Chinese space station that easily--HA!  Also, when Clooney tells Bullock, to let him go from the tether, it's just plain silly. All that she had to do was give the tether a little tug and he comes back.  It's in ZERO-G for Nature's sake!

 

-Tony Cruz, Do-Gooder Founder

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Urban Street Angels

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Urban Street Angels

Last Sunday I had the privilege of helping feed the homeless in San Diego for Thanksgiving with Mission Gathering Church. Their ministry, Urban Street Angels is committed to improving the lives of homeless youth and spends every Friday night in downtown San Diego and nearby beach areas reaching out to to them providing food, clothing and love.

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"Poem Of An Abused Girl" by Stanley Gemmell

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"Poem Of An Abused Girl" by Stanley Gemmell

I met Stanley Gemmell in a Haight Street bar in San Francisco over a year ago. Within five minutes into our conversation, I knew Stanley was an exceptional person, a poet, and most importantly, one of the good guys. We chatted about Do-Gooder and our stand against child trafficking. By the end of the night, he made a promise to write a poem for the girls who are trafficked. Over the months he kept in touch and let me know that he hadn’t forgotten about his promise. Then one day he sent me this…

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Jennifer O'Connor: No Ice Bucket Challenge? ACCEPTED!

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Jennifer O'Connor: No Ice Bucket Challenge? ACCEPTED!

Editor’s note: Jennifer O’Connor and Do-Gooder have a long history together. She was one of the original founders of Groundwork Opportunities, Do-Gooder’s first beneficiary for Clear Water.org. Jennifer was recently funded in July by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to promote global health in Africa and fight AIDS. Clean, accessible water is still close to her heart. In response to Slate’s article  “Take the ‘No Ice Bucket’ Challenge”, she gave us permission to repost her thoughts on the Ice Bucket Challenge and her alternative to dumping a bucket of ice on her head for charity.

 

So more on this Ice Bucket Challenge...I'm going to do my own water bucket challenge. So here goes... ‪#‎icebucketchallenge‬.

More than 780 million people lack access to clean water (that's 2.5x's the population of the USA) and 3.4 million of these people die each each year due to a lack of clean water. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent to a jumbo jet crash every four hours. So, while dumping clean water on your head (unless you are going to save that water to then drink or clean with) seems like a silly or fun idea to most, I can't stop thinking about the wastefulness of it - which, granted, is mostly because I have worked on clean water issues for over 7 years.

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Robin Williams: An Unfunny Part of Being Funny

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Robin Williams: An Unfunny Part of Being Funny

The Do-Gooder Team knows your life is filled with the incredibly sad loss of Robin Williams on Monday. Each of us have had our own deep connection with him, such as Tony’s blog mentioned in encounters with him personally, and through a lifetime of fandom and DVD collections. (ed. note: I loved Robin since his first appearance as Mork on Happy Days - JM)

One aspect that has really hit the team hard is the circumstances of his death, which was by suicide - intentional or not. The vehicles to death at one’s own hands are many, but one common denominator is almost always depression (which is just as varied in its forms and power). And sadly, like many people, we have all seen the effects of depression in our own lives. It’s a specter waiting to quietly push open a door to enter those that we love and it always has it’s hand on the door knob.

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My Time with Robin Williams

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My Time with Robin Williams

Like many people, the passing of Robin Williams yesterday greeted me with mixture of incredible sadness and wonderful memories of his humor and philanthropy. I was lucky enough to meet Robin a few times and capture a brief glimpse into the life of a comic legend. 

I first met Robin Williams in 2002. I was sitting in the kitchen of my partner’s sister’s house who worked as a nanny for his children. The doorbell rang, and when my partner returned, he seemed dumbfounded as Robin Williams followed him in. Robin was wearing a windbreaker, cargo pants, and the coolest running shoes I had ever seen. As he walked into the kitchen, he hungrily raided the pantry looking for snacks while my friend was cooking dinner. She looked over and yelled “Robin!” He stopped. Robin walked over and introduced himself. I played it cool but I was dying inside. He even knew my name. It was pleasantly bizarre but, from what I have heard, not unlike him to have such courtesy.

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Matt Jaffe and The Distractions: A Partnership for Good

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Matt Jaffe and The Distractions: A Partnership for Good

As huge music lovers, adding “LISTEN” as an offering on our site was always the plan. Today, that goal has finally come to be. It is with great excitement we present our partnership with the amazingly talented Matt Jaffe and The Distractions.

It’s been a thrill getting to know this young talent, who by the way is attending Yale while building his music career. We were blown away when we caught his show earlier this year at Slims and knew this band would be an awesome launch to Do-Gooder's music focus. 

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Some Numbers and Ideas Behind the FBI's Child Trafficking Sting

It’s been about a week since the FBI performed their massive sting operation that busted 281 pimps and 168 exploited children being sold for sex. 

Discussing the hard, sad realities of what is becoming more frequent to our children in the United States is nothing short of mood killer in any situation. The short answer is that there is no comfortable time to talk about the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) quickly out pacing drugs for criminals to make money.

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