Month: October 2016

The Effects of Corporate Greed

Skull-n-CrossbonesThank god those folks at Texaco (now owned by Chevron) aren’t drilling for oil or doing their exploration in your neighborhood–I don’t think you and your family would survive the experience. Why is this? Just ask the local people in Ecuador’s Amazon jungle region about Texaco and oil exploration.

The Tucson Weekly published a fantastic article here about the oil exploration and drilling that Texaco started back in the 1920s in the Ecuadorian region. Texaco, now owned by Chevron, decided that the poor indigenous jungle people wouldn’t know any better about modern petroleum drilling methods, so they used the cheapest, most expedient and damaging practices possible with no concern for those native peoples. There has been quite a bit of coverage about this situation, including Amnesty International throwing their legal and activist/community support into the mix.

Here’s the routine: you follow worst case business practices in an area where the locals don’t have a clue as to what you’re up to, completely devastate the local environment, don’t bother cleaning up after yourself, and then deny you ever did any harm in the first place: blame everything on the locals (who would never do anything to their community because it’s where they live.) Doesn’t this sound like a petulant, spoiled American child? What do parents typically do to the child after repeated warnings and parental instructions about poor behavior? They spank the kid’s ass and send the child to a “time out” zone, take away privileges, show their displeasure and sorrow about the child’s actions. So, taking this rather spotty metaphor to the matter at hand, how do we treat corporate misbehavior? We shame them, we spank them with lawsuits, we shun them by boycotting their products and services, we hopefully cause the corporate brats to own up to their misdeeds and compensate the native peoples.

Tucson Weekly (archives) article
Chevron could face huge damages
In-depth reporting about this disaster: AmazonWatch – ChevronToxico

Bhopal and Union Carbide 1984 Accident

Toxic landscapeHere’s the New York Times headline about the disaster and a chronology article NYTimes story about the Union Carbide Corporation’s Bhopal India chemical plant disaster from the day after the accident on 12/3/1984. Accident? Here is a very instructive bit of history on how we do out-sourcing and some of the consequences.

Union Carbide states, from their own private investigation, that the Bhopal accident was the work of sabotage: some unknown person put water in the toxic gas storage tank and that caused the massive chemical reaction that caused valves to rupture ejecting chemicals into the environment.

And a chronological view of the accident and how Union Carbide Corp. (UCC) weaseled its way out of providing substantial help in the short term for Bhopal victims. Contrast the UCC web site’s view of the disaster with the events listed on the Wikipedia page.

Here’s another site with graphics depicting the layout of the plant, holding tanks, and map of the surrounding area indicating the dispersing of the toxic gas.

Here’s a perfect example of how U.S. corporate weasles do business: You sell off or change the corporate name/identity of the nasty parts that have such an unattractive public image.

As a result of the sale of its shares in Union Carbide India (in 1994), Limited (UCIL), Union Carbide retained no interest in — or liability for — the Bhopal site
Union Carbide was purchased by another planet corporate citizen, Dow Chemical, in 2001 after the messy brouhaha in India.

Union Carbide Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company. “Dow”, as used throughout, often refers generically to The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries.

This type of corporate behavior is quite common and the American public seems to simply accept as normal, “business as usual”. Gotta watch out for the bottom line and keep those stock shares performing at an optimal level.

More fantastic news coverage and commentary about the Bhopal disaster:
NYTimes – Bhopal Deadly Legacy opinion
NYTimes – Where does the blame lie?

Dow Chemical Our Ethical Friend

Toxic landscape

[Here’s an older story that is relevant today with all the oil pipeline spills, the Standing Rock Sioux nation’s grievance and protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and the lead poisoning of large portions of Michigan’s water supply.]

Heartbreaking story on NY Times article on the continuing problems with the Union Carbide accident in Bhopal, India and how Dow Chemical is still doing its best to do nothing about the after-effects and weaseling out of helping with remediation of the site/community. Groundwater and soil are rarely tested and continued birth defects plague the area. Toxic waste is still being stored in sheds and a toxic sludge “pond” is used daily by children and dogs.

Dow can’t risk impacting its stockholders’ dividends with negative publicity and impact with probable cash outlay: Dow, based in Michigan, says it bears no responsibility to clean up a mess it did not make.

“As there was never any ownership, there is no responsibility and no liability — for the Bhopal tragedy or its aftermath,”

Scot Wheeler, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail message.

The Dow weasel is talking about how Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide and all its holdings, so Dow is, of course, not responsible for anything that Union Carbide perpetrated on the Bhopal community.

The article states that a jumpstart sum of $25M from Dow could solve many of the problems and help testing in the area. India’s government is afraid to push for the money because, in doing so, future investments by Dow might be put in jeopardy. (Why would you want to have Dow take part in anything in the country knowing their track record of environmental destruction and denial of wrongdoing?!?)

Dow Chemical has quite the awful past. They supplied the defoliant, napalm, that was used during the Vietnam conflict as well as manufactured Agent Orange that caused so much devastation and birth defects in Viet Nam. Dow is no stranger to environmental disasters. Wikipedia has noted the Environmental Record of Dow including

Being #11 in the “measure of toxicity of airborne pollutants emitted in the United States”
Dow has some responsibility for 96 of the United States’ worst Superfund toxic waste dumps, in tenth place by number of sites
Areas along Michigan’s Tittabawassee River, which runs within yards of Dow’s main plant in Midland, were found to contain elevated levels of the cancer-causing chemical dioxin in November 2006. The dioxin was located in sediments two to ten feet below the surface of the river.

The corporate marketing and legal staff at Dow are really working their spin on what a good corporate/world citizen the company is with their Corporate Ethics overview. Is this the type of ethical behavior we’ve come to expect from our leading corporate citizens? If that doesn’t make you feel nauseous and fear for your humanity, then look at Dow’s information about its commitment to clean drinking water. They talk about sustainability and clean water technologies they are helping to implement all over the world. Hey Dow! How about helping the folks in Bhopal with the problems your corporate ancestors created?

How do the corporate spin doctors and legal weasels at Dow sleep at night? How do they assuage their guilty consciences about the lies and deceptions they take an active role in promoting? Do large paychecks and great stock options help to ease their guilt? I’m feeling sickened…