Hell Will Freeze Over Before Chevron Pays for Pollution
When 30,000 Ecuadorian villagers sued Chevron in 1993 for devastating the Amazon with 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, the US-based oil giant’s reply was simple: “We will fight [the lawsuit] until hell freezes over,” said a representative. “And then fight it out on the ice.”
After investigators documented what they call a “Rainforest Chernobyl”—17 million gallons of spilled crude oil, more than 1,000 open waste pits full of toxic waste polluting the drinking water, and thousands of victims of cancer and birth defects—it seemed justice was served for the villagers. In 2011, an Ecuadorian court ruled against Chevron and demanded the company pay $19 billion in restitution. Ecuador’s Supreme Court later reduced the damages to $9.5 billion but upheld that ruling.
But on Tuesday, a U.S. court effectively overturned the ruling, which means Chevron has won the fight and hell, apparently, has frozen over. They’ve won using what activists say are dirty tactics, including filing a countersuit against the Ecuadorian villagers, claiming they had lied all along about the pollution caused to their properties as part of a shakedown scheme.
Chevron hired a legal team of more than 60 law firms and 2,000 legal professionals to argue that it’s not the villagers who are the victims here—it’s the corporation.
To those of us for whom life is an incessant montage of badly-lighted scenes detailing mistakes made and opportunities squandered, this endless winter has been something of a comfort in that we are no longer alone: It’s dark out there for everyone now. Oh, you’re a little down because it is cold and gray all the time? WELCOME TO MY WORLD. Huh, you never really realized just how sad things can get at 5:15 of a Wednesday evening? MY LIFE IS AN ENDLESS SERIES OF WEDNESDAY EVENING, 5:15s. Perhaps “comfort” is not the appropriate word, though: What I am trying to convey is the small sense of belonging we melancholics finally feel now that everyone around us has grasped just how empty, meaningless and sorrowful it all is, and how even the sharpest sparkle on things that seem streaked with salvation is only the errant reflection from a sliver of sun that was meant to shine for someone else. Sadly, though, just as we are getting comfortable with the idea that we are part of the larger group, along comes the clock to save the rest of you: this Sunday everything goes an hour ahead. When you are living in your bright new world, one that is suffused with light and joy, please every now and then give a thought to those of us left behind, those of us for whom the darkness never ends. You know who we are now. You were once like us. Spring forward.