Yesterday I attended the Goldman Environmental Prize Awards, as I have done most years since sometime in the early 1990s. The event is held in the city’s beautiful War Memorial Opera House, with a reception afterward at City Hall. The award honors grassroots environmental activists from around the world with a cash prize of $150,000. According to Nancy Pelosi, the award is “on a par with the Nobel Peace Prize in terms of its recognition of courage and brilliance in protecting our environment.”
This year two of the winners were lawyer Pablo Fajardo Mendoza and community organizer Luis Yanza, both of Ecuador, who are suing Chevron to clean up oil contamination in the Amazon rain forest. This region is one of the world’s most contaminated sites, and residents report a large number of health problems and deaths that appear related to the contamination.
But the selection of the Ecuadorans for the prize has again highlighted the journalistic deficiencies of our local daily, whose declining circulation can be no surprise. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, in an article headlined (not very grammatically) “Controversy Mires Choice for Goldman Prize,” recognition of the Ecuardorans has created “a raging controversy.”
Which is the Chronicle‘s way of saying that Chevron held a press conference to express opposition to the activists who were suing the corporation. After all, according to Chevron general counsel Charles James, even if the environmental activists win in Ecuadoran courts “their ability to enforce this is going to be very limited.”
Well, sure it’s going to be limited. If Chevron was a country it would be much bigger and more powerful than Ecuador. So I guess the message is might makes right, no matter what the human and environmental consequences.
Is this really a “raging controversy”?