This documentary is the story of a lawsuit by tens of thousands of Ecuadorans against Chevron over contamination of the Ecuadorean Amazon.The case, worth $27 billion is one of the largest and most controversial legal cases on the planet.
The Plaintiffs are suing Chevron for damage cause by 30 years of operation in the Amazon between 1960-1990. The plaintiffs claim that Texaco – which merged with Chevron in 2001 – spent three decades systematically contaminating one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, poisoning the water, air and land. The plaintiffs allege that the pollution has created a “death zone” in an area the size of the Rhode Island, resulting in increased rates of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and a multiplicity of other health ailments. They further allege that the oil operations in the region contributed to the destruction of indigenous peoples and irrevocably impacted their traditional way of life.
Chevron fights the claims, charging that the case is a complete fabrication, perpetrated by “environmental con men” who are seeking to line their pockets with the company’s billions.
In some respects the film is depressing, in others enlightening – it’s only being fought in Ecuador because Chevron demanded so, after spending 9 years dillydallying in American courtrooms, to get the case moved from the USA to Ecuador.
The film mostly follows the legal team representing the Indians – and it’s a bleak picture – we learn, for example, that the brother of one of them was tortured and murdered, and we also get see what a drawn out process this legal battle is – most of the time this team looks on the edge of exhaustion – but not as exhausted as some of the people living near Chevron’s oil spills who are suffering from Cancer.
You also get to see and hear from Chevron’s lawyers – who play a cunning game of ‘it’s not our fault, you have to blame the government that allowed us to drill here’ or ‘OK – we see that there’s oil here – but how can you prove it’s a result of our drilling processes rather than just natural seepage’? and similarly ‘how can you prove the skin rashes are due to oil and not just poor sanitation’?
The Movie doesn’t conclude, as at the time of production the legal battle was ongoing – but in Feburary 2011 Chevron were found guilty of environmental damage and slapped with a $9 billion dollar fine - only 1/3rd of what the Plaintiffs were asking for.
Chevron of course, rather than pay the fine are fighting back - arguing that the lawyers in the Movie have been engaged in Fraud in that they’v emade false allegations against Chevron, and they hold the state owned oil company of Equador, which took over prodcution since 1990, responsible for the pollution.
This is just about the perfect resource for teaching ‘environmental crime’ in the A2 Criminology course!