Friday, 18 November 2011
Shell Death Rope - In Memory of Ken Saro-Wiwa
On the 9th of November 2011 at a Shell-sponsored awards ceremony in the swanky corporate offices of the CBI (Britain’s biggest business lobby group), young entrepreneurs are looking towards a bright future.
Sixteen years ago, Shell made sure that Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other young Nigerian activists had no future. On 10th November 1995, Shell was complicit in their execution at the hands of the Nigerian military government for campaigning against the devastation of their homeland the Niger Delta by oil companies, in particular Shell.
And every day, all over the world – from building dodgy pipelines in Rossport, Ireland, to mining the world’s most polluting oil from the Canadian tar sands – Shell’s oil exploration and extraction activities undermine our collective future by pushing us ever closer to the brink of climate catastrophe. At the same time, it rakes in billions in profit every month, while the rest of us struggle to get by.
Shell doesn’t want us to remember these horrific things. So it channels a miniscule fraction of its obscene profits into sponsoring events like Livewire – not to mention most of the major arts and cultural institutions in London.
That’s why we’re here tonight: to remember – and to resist.
Nigeria: Shell’s dirty secret
The hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his Ogoni colleagues – whose only crime was to speak out for environmental and social justice – caused shock and outrage around the world. But whatever we might like to think, the human rights abuses perpetrated by Shell continue to this day. Shell’s routine payments to armed militants exacerbate armed conflict, and oil spills and gas flaring continue to devastate the fragile environment of the Niger Delta and the lives of the people who live there. But resistance continues as well; the UN has issued a damning report on the ecological impact of oil spills in Ogoni, and Shell was recently forced to admit liability and pay out millions of pounds in compensation for two massive oil spills after a lawsuit filed in London.
Sponsorship: buying us off
Sponsorship of events like Livewire is one of the most important ways Shell tries to protect its reputation and buy our acceptance. By sponsoring a social 'good' like an award to help young entrepreneurs, the oil giant is able to represent itself as a responsible organisation, and distract our attention from its environmental and social crimes around the world. By being here tonight, we strike a blow to Shell’s precious brand, chip away at Shell’s powerful position in our society, and move towards the day when Big Oil – like Big Tobacco – is no longer seen as a socially acceptable.
Remember climate change?
Climate change may have disappeared from the news recently, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is already claiming 300,000 lives a year. Glaciers, permafrost and sea ice are disappearing. Sea levels are rising, seasons changing and extreme weather becoming more extreme. As temperatures rise, we’ll see more flooding, more drought, more disease, more famine and more war, creating hundreds of millions of refugees and causing the destruction of entire ecosystems and species.
We can’t afford to forget about climate change – or the fact that companies like Shell are at the heart of the problem.
For more information and to get involved:
Twitter: @shelldeathrope and @risingtide_UK