Environment,  Ethics

Windmill Tilted At

The non appearance of a recent advertisement for Amnesty International is causing much head-scratching at the Guardian:

Apparently rival newspaper the Financial Times decided not to publish an advert from the human rights organisation to be published today which reads:

While Shell toasts $9.8bn profits, the people of the Niger Delta are having to drink polluted water. They’re also having to grow crops in polluted soil. To catch fish in polluted rivers. And to raise children in polluted homes. So if you’ve got shares in Shell, ask the board to explain themselves when they raise their glasses at today’s agm.

Oil Pollution is no joke as anyone in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico will testify, but is Shell wholly responsible for the situation in the Niger Delta? Here’s the Guardian earlier this month:

Shell faces regular attacks by militants who have targeted pipelines, kidnapped petroleum company workers and fought government troops since 2006. Its chief executive officer has even hinted that the company can no longer depend on Nigeria as a profit-maker, despite its 50-year history in the country.

The majority of the total, according to the company, was lost through two incidents – one in which thieves damaged a wellhead at its Odidi field, and another where militants bombed the Trans Escravos pipeline. In all, some 13,900 tonnes spilled into the swamps, but Shell said it was able to recover nearly 10,000 tonnes of that.

In its annual environment report, released yesterday, Shell also quadrupled its original estimate of oil spilled during normal operations in 2008 to 8,800 tonnes, blaming an explosion in November of that year at its Iriama field for the increase.

The government is aware of the spills, and Shell has properly taken care of the damage and remains “involved in serious clean-up exercises”, said Levi Ajonuma, a spokesman for the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.

Responding to the spills remains difficult, however, as Shell’s workers are increasingly seen by criminal gangs as lucrative kidnap targets. The company reported that 51 of its employees and contractors were kidnapped for ransom in 2009, compared with 11 in 2008.

The Guardian might be wondering why the FT’s lawyers drew the line at publishing the advert intimating that Shell are responsible for the spillages but the fact that Amnesty’s own lawyers hadn’t cleared the wording for publication should be another clue to anyone paying attention.

Come on Amnesty, there’s plenty of serious human rights work to be done in the world. Stop the empty posturing and get out there and do it.