Bhopal 26 years later

by Saffi Ullah Ahmad

Editor’s Note: For backround on the Bhopal disaster click here.

Friday marks the 26th anniversary of the world’s worst industrial catastrophe, the Bhopal Gas Disaster, which brought to light in the most horrific of ways the darker side of economic globalisation. The disaster saw the lives of hundreds of thousands of impoverished Indians destroyed as negligence on the part of a US multinational led to the escape of over 40 tons of ultra-hazardous toxic gasses from a poorly built pesticide factory, laying waste on an entire city.

Although estimates vary, the current death toll is thought to be 25,000, and those seriously injured number well over 100,000. These numbers are still rising due to the thousands of tons of abandoned chemicals continuously polluting the Bhopali environment (with increasing concentrations in the soil and drinking water), and gas-affected survivors giving birth to children with serious genetic malformations.

To date, justice has evaded Bhopal victims and their families, who continue to suffer with a vast range of crippling disabilities as well as psychological trauma. The multinational behind all this — Union Carbide Corporation, now owned by the Dow Chemical Company — continues to exploit the inadequate framework of the Indian legal system and has been aided by indifference and at times probable collusion by the central government which dubiously insists it has always acted in the best interest of the victims.

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Playing with Water

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Susya toilet under demolition order by the Israeli army (Amnesty International, “TROUBLED WATERS – PALESTINIANS DENIED FAIR ACCESS TO WATER”, p.2 )

Water in Israel is probably one of the most blatant faces of apartheid. As reports like the Amnesty International report of 2009, “Troubled Waters” and the B’tselem website coverage of the issue, “The Water Crisis” show us,  Israel’s resources are invested in water theft/access denial from Palestinians. But water in Israel is not just a substance of life, for those who can’t have it, it’s a tradable commodity, for those who’ll never miss it.

Like a Fish in National Waters

Water resources in Israel are all state-owned. Naturally- as is usually the case within the militaristic, nationalistic Israel- the state will allocate these resources to serve its “national needs”. Water theft is a good example of “negative” policy, which is so obviously discriminatory, violent and inexcusable, that the only way to sell it to the public is not to mention it at all. True to form, when cave- dwelling Palestinians are kicked out of their caves and their harvesting canisters (on the cave roof?) are destroyed [“Troubled Waters”, p.2], there’s no Israeli media around to record it, spin it and dish it. “Positive” policy, however, is always easy to sell. After all, we “dried the swamps and made the wilderness bloom”, and the environmental devastation of swamp drying still isn’t being taught in schools.

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The Other Debt Crisis: Climate Debt

With the Cancun UN climate conference only weeks away now, the brilliant Avi Lewis travels to Bolivia to explore the country’s climate crusade from the inside on this edition of Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines.

The climate crisis in Bolivia is not a headline or an abstraction – it is playing out in people’s lives in real time. Melting glaciers are threatening the water supply of the country’s two biggest cities. Increasing droughts and floods are playing havoc with agriculture. So it is no surprise that in climate negotiations, Bolivia is emerging as a leader in the global south – advancing both radical solutions and analysis that make rich countries distinctly nervous.

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Energy: recognizing how much isn’t there

by Robert Jensen

This article is Part 3 of a 3 part collection of essays by University of Texas at Austin Professor Robert Jensen on important issues that should be highlighted during this year’s US mid-term election campaigns.

Robert Jensen

Will America’s energy crisis be solved by more aggressive pursuit of fossil fuels or by more vigorous development of renewables?

In this campaign season, there are politicians on all sides. Chants of “drill, baby, drill” ring out, while others sing the praises of wind and solar, and some argue we must try everything.

Unfortunately, politicians don’t seem willing to face a more difficult reality: There is no solution, if by “solution” we mean producing enough energy to maintain our current levels of consumption indefinitely.

To deal with the energy crisis we must deal with a consumption crisis, but politicians are reluctant to run a campaign based on a call for “less” — the American Dream, after all, is always “more.” But, whether the public and politicians like it or not, our future is about learning to live with less, starting with a lot less energy.

In the United States, we have been living with the abundance produced by an industrial economy, all made possible by the concentrated energy of fossil fuels. We tell ourselves this is the product of our hard work, but our life of plenty was made possible by the incredible energy stored in coal, oil, and natural gas. How long can that continue?

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BP Oil Spill Threatens Bayou Tribes

by Dennis Bernstein

For unlucky residents of the Gulf States, the BP oil-spill disaster, coming up on 100 days, could take another turn for the worst if one of the storms churning up tropical waters in the Atlantic Ocean blossoms into a full-blown hurricane and heads into the Gulf of Mexico.

For several already marginalized Native tribes living on the Louisiana Coast – many of them fishermen and shrimpers – a hurricane crashing through the oil-polluted Gulf now could destroy a way of life that has survived for centuries.

Already, the tribal land among the coastal bayous is disappearing faster than anywhere on the planet, the victim of unbridled oil exploration and dam building projects of the Army Corps of Engineers dating back to the 1930s.

“For us it’s more like a hundred years of oil disasters than a hundred days,” said Chief Charles Verdin of the Pointe au Chien tribe. “And really when you look at it … it’s business as usual. The tribes being ignored, forgotten, overlooked, and forced from their land.”

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Dying Sea Turtles Warn of Toxic Gulf

by Dennis Bernstein

Endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle (Photo: Greenpeace USA)

Scientists and environmentalists across the United States and around the globe have their fingers crossed that BP’s claim to have finally capped its runaway well, after three months, is true, and that the damage of history’s worst environmental disaster can now be assessed in finite terms.

Yet, it will take years, if not decades, to truly comprehend the extent of the devastation: the dead and damaged wildlife, the soiled beaches and marshes, and the huge swaths of the sea that may become dead zones, so polluted that fish and other animals can’t survive there.

Even as BP was announcing its alleged capping success, many more wounded animals were being spotted and oil was still splashing on shorelines across the Gulf. Just recently, oil surged into one of the largest sea-bird nesting areas along Louisiana’s coast near Raccoon Island.

Three hundred to four hundred more pelicans were spotted with oil, as well as hundreds of terns. Scientists say these visible blotches of oil mean death for the sea birds.

To date, it’s estimated that over 3,000 birds have been killed, 59 dolphins, at least one sperm whale, and more than 460 turtles. Indeed, perhaps the species most threatened by the tens of millions of gallons of oil and toxic dispersants is the giant prehistoric sea turtle.

Dr Christopher A. Pincetich, a marine biologist and toxicologist for the Turtle Island Restoration Network, is convinced that the BP oil spill has destroyed a “generation” of turtles.

“We’re working as fast as we can on several fronts,” Dr. Pincetich said in an interview from New Orleans. “Most urgent right now is the immediate rescue of more of the endangered sea turtles that are in the Gulf oil spill right now.”

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