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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Making Tracks: Chioma Daisy Onyige

In the “Making Tracks” series, RCC fellows and alumni present their experiences in environmental humanities, retracing the paths that led them to the Rachel Carson Center. For more information, please click here.

“Omoku: My Environment, My Heritage, My Reality.”

By Chioma Daisy Onyige

I was born in the late 1970s in the town of Omoku in Ogba Kingdom, an oil-producing community in Rivers State, Nigeria. It is situated in the heart of what is now known as the Niger Delta Region, in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA). The region is blessed with many natural resources; it is a well-known fact that no local government area in Nigeria produces as much crude oil and gas as ONELGA. When I was born, the Omoku community had no electricity despite this oil production; the only light came from either the sun, gas flare from oil companies, or lights from the kerosene lamps. Today things have somewhat changed, but this has come with a price: the “oil curse.” Continue reading


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Videos: Lunchtime Colloquia, April

We have had some more exciting talks in our lunchtime colloquium series this month! Check out the videos below. For more videos, including a series of short interviews with fellows about their research at the RCC, please visit our YouTube channel.

Angelika Krebs:  “‘And What was there Accepted Us’: Landscape, Stimmung, and Heimat

Thomas Princen: “Imagining the End of the Fossil Fuel Era”


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Arctic Dreaming? History, Resource Development, and the Future of the Arctic Meltdown

By John Sandlos

We have all heard the news stories: a warming climate is destined to melt huge sections of the multi-year polar sea ice, potentially unlocking the last great untapped reservoirs of oil and natural gas in the world. The media has been preoccupied with this prediction, in part because of the controversy surrounding the Prirazlomnaya oil platform and Russia’s subsequent arrest and imprisonment of the 30 Greenpeace “Arctic Sunrise” activists on charges of piracy (now reduced to hooliganism), some of whom attempted to scale the giant rig to protest the safety and environmental concerns surrounding Arctic drilling. Environmental risks associated with the Prirazlomnaya platform stem in part from specific worries about the safety of the rig. Any resulting oil spill has catastrophic potential as the oil becomes locked under the ice for long periods of time in a cold ocean environment where hydrocarbons will biodegrade only very slowly. The platform is also symbolically important as the first to drill in the icy waters above the Arctic Circle, the vanguard of what environmentalists and many in the media have described as the “madness” of designating the melting pack ice as an opportunity for a resource boom; one that will only further exacerbate the problem of climate change in this most delicate of regions. The Prirazlomnaya platform has, in many ways, become a global flashpoint for competing visions of the Arctic future in the face of rapid environmental change. Will the oil boom bring an Arctic utopia where the economic benefits of oil development produce spinoff industries and spread wealth through the region, or will the exploitation of the potentially vast Arctic oil and gas deposits accelerate the warming process that threatens to severely and rapidly disrupt environmental conditions in the region? Continue reading