Oilwatch International was formally inaugurated in 1996 in Quito, Ecuador. Oilwatch has remained a network driven by the conviction that the petroleum civilisation is driving humans to the precipice. This forward-looking network called for oil to be left in the soil from its very early days. That is still the call today. Building a post-petroleum civilisation has never been more urgent as it is now.
Ecuador was the right place to begin this adventure, this struggle, this working with and learning from communities impacted by fossil fuels extraction. Ecuador served as a big school because in one or two days, and within a short travel time, you could visit oil wells, pollution spots and refineries. You could see all the atrocities and massive oil spills left by Chevron in the Amazon, for example. Using the tools of research and social exchanges, Oilwatchers from various countries could see that the destructive impacts of hydrocarbons extraction and oil-driven civilisation was uniformly reprehensible.
The extreme pollutions of the Niger Delta, the acid and asphalt lakes beside the refinery in Curacao, the Tar sand pits of Canada and the ongoing epic struggles to keep pipelines from destroying nature and peoples ,remain the open wounds that we must confront daily.
In two days Oilwatchers looked at the rearview mirrors over the past 20 years, talked about the increasing criminalisation of nature defenders, remembered our fallen comrades, and agreed to pursue the attainment of a future where the rights of people and nature are respected and where humans live in harmony – in the true spirit of Ubuntu.
On my first trip to Quito in 1997 I took a photo of the three Amazons above on a scooter. Talk of mass transit! That photo is preserved in my pollution travelogue – Oilwatching in South America (Kraft Books, 1997). As we marked 20 years of Oilwatch we could not resist the pull to have a throwback! Simply amazing.
Oilwatchers stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters taking the stand on the Dakota Access Pipeline.