Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Student Research: Environmental (In)justice – The Case of Chevron-Texaco in Ecuador

By Camila Cabrera

Ecuador, a small country located on the equator, bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west, traversed by the Andes mountain range, and covered by part of the Amazon rainforest in the east, is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Nevertheless, as Nathalie Cely, the former Ecuadorian ambassador to the United States, stated, “underneath this natural beauty lies both a treasure and a curse: oil.”

Oil was discovered in the Ecuadorian Amazon in 1967 by the petroleum company Texaco. Rapidly, they began large-scale exploitation, generating impressive national revenues not seen in the past. However, such economic fortune did not bring equivalent social and environmental advantages.

As the political analyst Julio Ballesteros has stated, the Amazon has long been an isolated territory not only geographically but also anthropologically. For centuries, its inhabitants have subsisted thanks to the abundant vegetation and availability of natural resources such as water. Despite the presence of human groups in this area, the oil company generated around 18 billion gallons of toxic water, which drained directly into soils and watersheds.

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Crude contaminates the Aguarico 4 oil pit, an open pool abandoned by Texaco after 6 years of production and never remediated. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network. Available under a CC BY-NC 2.0 licence, https://www.flickr.com/photos/rainforestactionnetwork/4858073943.

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Doktorandentag 2016

By Anja Rieser and Ivan Vilovic

With topics ranging from earthquakes to the League of Nations, greenhouse gases to photography, in fields as diverse as politics, law, geography, and art, the doctoral students at the Rachel Carson Center are a truly interdisciplinary group. On 7 November they convened for a “Doktorandentag,” a day of presentations and discussions in which six of the doctoral students and two visiting doctoral students (from Tel Aviv and Warsaw respectively) presented their current research projects. It was an opportunity to show the research happening at the Rachel Carson Center, where staff, fellows, and doctoral students were all welcome to come and listen, as well to take part in interesting discussions concerning their projects.

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Worldview: Berta Cáceres

Let Us Wake Up, Humankind! Justice for Berta Cáceres and for All Environmental Activists Killed around the World”

By María Valeria Berros

In our worldview, we are beings who come from the Earth, from the water, and from corn. The Lenca people are ancestral guardians of the rivers, in turn protected by the spirits of young girls, who teach us that giving our lives in various ways for the protection of the rivers is giving our lives for the well-being of humanity and of this planet. COPINH (National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras), walking alongside people struggling for their emancipation, validates this commitment to continue protecting our waters, the rivers, our shared resources and nature in general, as well as our rights as a people. Let us wake up! Let us wake up, humankind! We are out of time. […] Continue reading


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Worldview: Legal Implications of Environmental Risks

“State and Enterprise Responsibility for Civil and Environmental Risks”

By Harald Koch, Berlin/Hamburg

What has the Agent Orange disaster of the 1960s in Vietnam left behind, other than the terrible health effects suffered by innocents and persistent ecological damages?

Are there lessons to be learned from the way the legal system handles such man-made disasters, from the way relief was sought and granted to victims in Vietnam, the US, and other countries? Given that many environmental disasters today have international repercussions, is transborder litigation the means to achieve “global justice”? And how can we ensure the accountability of corporations and government institutions that are responsible for wide-spread health injuries and environmental damages?

Within this framework, three issues were addressed during a conference on Agent Orange organized by the RCC in Tutzing last year; they will be illustrated here using case studies involving international environmental and human rights damages.
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