Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
ISSUE 276, FRIDAY
22nd September, 2000
Shock Energy Breakthrough: BP's recent corporate facelift - with the new floral emblem and the 'beyond petroleum' slogan - has helped them to find a great renewable source of energy: hot air!
An interesting by-product of the recent fuel blockage was that people got to see what towns and cities were like from the year dot up until recently- pleasantly car free. Companies like BP are taking these new challenges head on, or at least their PR department is. The company is leading the pack in the realisation that the dirty work can go on, but from behind a thick cloud of "we're-green" bullshit (also known as 'greenwash'). So to appease the public, and relieve the management of guilt, the trick is not to argue that black is white - it's to argue that both black and white are in fact different shades of green - the interests of business and conserving the environment are one and the same!
Oil and gas companies are trying to find any possible opportunity to differentiate their product and build up a 'brand'. And climate change (SchNEWS 263) provides just one such opportunity. Even as early as the late 1980s, BP pushed itself as THE environmental oil and gas company. At the same time as they were destroying large areas of rainforest in Brazil, BP responded to the rise in eco-consciousness with a £20 million re-imaging campaign, painting all its property green while advertising its annual report under the slogan 'Now We're Greener Than Ever'. As Corporate Watch magazine point out, "The image change is towards retailing, and renewables, but their production of oil is increasingly in areas of fragile eco-systems and indigenous peoples".
BP's latest move is to distance itself from the oil industry by withdrawing from this year's Global Climate Coalition, the US based pro-oil group rejecting cuts in emissions. The new image suggests they are moving into renewable energy and 'beyond petroleum' - into solar maybe? Well actually born-again BP merged with Amoco - who have huge gas deposits - to become BP-Amoco, moving together into natural gas, whereupon the name changed back to BP. SchNEWS hates to break more bad news, but the truth is that the money they're putting into petroleum far outstrips expenditure into green alternatives. BP plan to spend £200 million on renewable energy over the next 5 years, which is just a bit less than the £67 billion Amoco cost 'em two years ago or £6 billion that will go towards fossil fuel exploration worldwide. BP's main interests are in the North Sea, the Caspian Sea (an area of ongoing instability, and Alaska, while Columbia is just one place where they rub shoulders with military conflict.
In April of this year, BP chairman Sir John Browne showed how he'd arrived at enlightenment by joining with environmentalists to give one of the Reith lectures on how, er, green BP are going - the lecture must have lasted a cosy five minutes. And the virtual reality PR world has thrown up a whole new 'industry' - risk management. But the risks are not necessarily your company's toxic waste, but rather the public outcry it generates. There are media techniques used to minimise the fuss - like sympathising with the villagers next to your oil spill and treating them as victims of something which couldn't be prevented. A whole language of double-speak PR rhetoric has emerged, it's sometimes so sophisticated that it would appear that management in some corporations are now completely lost in their own lies. Next they'll be holding group tree-hugging sessions.
So what are the results of the oil companies' real exploits? Nowhere are the effects of global warming clearer than in the Arctic, where for the first time yer actual North pole is now without ice and the ice-pack on the Arctic Ocean is 40% thinner. Now we hope you won't be disappointed, but the key company in Arctic Alaska is . slippery BP.
Not content with this, BP have been contributing funds to US Senators and Congressmen who support the oil industry. They 'gave cash' to 34 of the 65 senators who voted to reject global warming restrictions and increases in funding for renewable energies. BP is a major funder of the pro-oil lobby group Arctic Power, which wants to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Two BP funded Alaskan senators are keen to open up the Refuge - America's Serengeti - to exploitation. One of them, Don Young, has said "If you think billions of oil will stay in the ground, you're smoking pot ".
At immediate stake is the preservation of the Refuge, which is home to polar and grizzly bears, near extinct shaggy musk ox, moose, 150 species of migrating birds and the migrating caribou who trek 1000 miles to breed. Scientists are claiming that the Arctic is warming up five times faster than the rest of the earth thanks to climate change. The region's indigenous people, the Gwich'in, fear for their ancestral land and the dwindling numbers of caribou whose breeding habits are affected by the oil activity. Last year two Gwich'in people, with the help of Greenpeace, successfully lobbied 13% of BP shareholders to vote against new oil production in the area and spend more on renewable energy sources. Despite this move in a (slightly) better direction, earlier this year BP had to pay a $15 million fine for toxic waste dumping. BP Alaska's president Richard Campbell softsoaps in the company's environmental statement that their goal is 'quite simply no accidents, no harm to people, and no damage to the environment.' Sorry mate, you're in the wrong game.
"While British motorists complain about the price of petrol, the exploitation of oil is a matter of life or death to many Khanty people" -Survival International
The 22,000 Khanty tribespeople of Siberia, reindeer herders and hunters, have a harsh existence which is further hampered by the Russian oil companies, predominantly Lukoil. The relentless pillage by the oil industry is responsible for the loss of their lands, livelihoods and ultimately their lives.
Since they hold no official documentation to prove ownership of their lands, the Khanty find themselves manipulated and deceived, bribed with promises of compensation which never arrive. Powerless to prevent the loss of their means of survival, many turn to alcoholism and suicide.
Survival International have just launched a campaign for the tribes of Siberia to have ownership and protection of their lands. Survival International, 11-15 Emerald Street, London, WC1N 3QL, 0207 242 1441, www.survival-international.org
"In Colombia, wherever there has been oil development, violence and ecological disaster have followed," -Atossa Soltani, Amazon Watch
Columbia is one of the largest suppliers of oil to the US. Despite the fact that one oil pipeline in the country was bombed 99 times by guerrillas last year, the government is still pressing on with exploiting new reserves.
For 8 years the U'wa tribal people of northern Columbia have been fighting against the Colombian government and US oil giants Occidental, trying to stop them drilling on part of their sacred ancestral land (SchNEWS 244). Their protests are now receiving international support. In order to protect their image Occidental are claiming that the U'wa people weren't opposed to the exploration until their cause was adopted by environmental groups from Europe and America.
In March a Colombian judge ordered an injunction against the exploration because he felt the Indians had not been properly consulted about the project. But in May a new Interior Minister overturned this decision. Last week saw what could be one of the final episodes in the fight, when the Columbian government declared that if the U'wa people do not move off the disputed land they would be evicted within 7 days. Occidental has stated that they plan to sink the first exploratory well before the end of September. Keep up-to-date with this story at www.ran.org
Time banks are a new concept that trade in our most precious commodity- time. They store the time credits that people save by helping others or their community. So if one member spends an hour of their time helping another member they are then entitled to an hour of somebody else's time. There are now 15 time banks across the country. For more information on them visit www.timemoney.org.uk, or contact the New Economics Foundation (NEF) at the address below.
A meeting about Time Banks is being held on Tuesday 17th October 7-9pm at the London School of Economics, Clement House, 99 Aldwych, London (nearest tube Holborn), £12.50 including a complimentary book 'No more throw away people'. Tickets available from NEF at Cinnamon House, 6-8 Cole St, London, SE1 4YH Tel: 020 7407 7447 www.neweconomics.org
With an increase in fascist activity and consequent racist attacks in Leicester, anti-fascists there have organised an awareness raising benefit gig on the 29th Sept at the "Y", East Street, opposite the railway station. Four bands will be playing - F.B.I., The Splitters, Schkmpf, and the Duppy Conquerors, as well as DJs from Genghis Hi-Fi and the Eazy Sound System.
Leicester has a history of standing up to the racists in recent years. This same militancy needs to be restored, as the fascists are once again making headway in the city. Crunch, who are organising the gig, are an example of this new mood of fight back, with all the artists doing it for free- even the club are not charging a fee. Gig starts at 8pm till 2am, tickets £4/£2.50 concs. All money raised will go to refugee charities. www.listen.to/crunch .
* If you're in the area get along to the Leicester Radical Alliance on the 26th, a broad based alliance of socialists, greens and anarchists, at the Secular Hall, 7.30pm .
* The 4th of October is the anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, when in 1936 3000 fascists, protected by 6000 cops, tried to march in the East End of London. 25,000 locals weren't having it, and blocked Cable Street to stop them marching. There's a really good booklet about this incident called "The Battle of Cable Street 1936: A People's History", which not only covers the battle but also Britain and the East End at the time, Jewish immigration and anti-semitism, the Spanish Civil War and the far right after 1936, available from Freedom Press, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London. E 1 7QX price £3.99.
* The Civil Rights Caravan is visiting towns and cities across the country, holding pickets, public meetings and concerts, in solidarity with asylum seekers and victims of racism. They'll be in Brighton this Saturday (24), Sheffield (29) Newcastle (30). For dates in October call 020-7837 1450/ 07957-240755 or check out www.ncrm.org.uk/caravan. They've also organised a national demonstration on the anniversary of the death of Ricky Reel (SchNEWS 232) on the 14th October. Meet 1pm at the Embankment, London.
"No barley in, No beer out" is the slogan of a new campaign group that has been set up with the intention to bring the country (or at least the SchNEWS office) to it's knees. Angry boozers around the country this week vowed to Dump the Pub if the government doesn't reduce alcohol tax. Unlike those whinging drivers you've got to admit they've got a point. At least petrol taxes get spent on roads, how much of alcohol tax gets spent on pubs?. With at least one rural pub calling time every day the campaign are calling for some of the £10 billion revenue from alcohol tax robbed from us each year to be spent on building new pubs, or refurbishing old ones. A spokesman for the campaign stated that "we pay about 66 percent tax on the price of beer, so for every £10 you spend on a night out, you're giving the government nearly an extra £7 out of your own pocket!! For every three pints you buy for yourself, you buy two pints for Gordon Brown. Mr Brown - buy your own!!!" Of course it would be impossible to dump the pub for good, so the campaign is running a weekly boycott on Mondays, which still sounds pretty drastic. Check it out at www.DumpThePubs.com
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Last updated 22nd September 2000