TH Exclusive: Rainforest In The Hamptons at Project GreenHouse
From left; Lene Oestergaard, Executive Director of RF US; Luis Yanza, Legal Coordinator of the Amazon Defense Coalition; Pablo Fajardo, Lead Attorney against Chevron; Sting and Trudie Styler.
Last Saturday, while mixing weekending with good green work, fellow TreeHugger Oliva Zaleski and I had the opportunity to attend "Rainforest In The Hamptons" at Project GreenHouse hosted by Trudie Styler to benefit the Rainforest Foundation which she co-founded in 1989 with her husband Sting. While Trudie herself could not attend, Kathy Schenker (Sting's manager) delivered a speech on her behalf which you can read in its entirety below the fold. A good portion of the speech concerns the case against Chevron/Texaco that TreeHugger Leonora reported on from the front lines in Equador; read her exclusive interview with Daryl Hannah here. Also presenting that evening was Foundation Executive Director Lene Oestergaard who narrated a PowerPoint presentation outlining the organization's conservation work to date. We'll bring you that TH Exclusive next week, for now, enjoy this green weekend.Kathy Schenker on behalf of Trudie Styler, July 21, 2007:
Thank you all so much, ladies and gentlemen, for coming to join us here in this amazing house. Project GreenHouse is a real lesson in how we could be living in the near future, if we take on the responsibility of reducing our carbon footprints on this fragile earth. In the 20 years since Sting and Trudie founded the Rainforest Foundation, they have visited the rainforests of South America many times. They have been privileged to see some of the earth's most spectacular and unspoiled rainforest.And they have also seen forest lands that have been completely devastated in the pursuit of profit. Sometimes it's about grain to feed cattle, or it's about gold or diamonds. Sometimes it's about oil.
Tomorrow, Trudie sets off on her second trip to Ecuador this year, to an area which, only a few decades ago, was uncharted wilderness. Now environmentalists describe it as one of the world's most contaminated industrial sites. Over two decades, in the course of drilling for oil, the pipelines of Texaco-Chevron spilled more than 17 million gallons of oil into Ecuador's rainforest. If the drilling had been done in the US, the toxic waste produced would have been re-injected deep into the ground well below the water table, to ensure no environmental damage.
But this wasn't the US. It was Ecuador, where the legal requirements were not so stringent. Texaco (which was later acquired by Chevron) was able, quite legally, to leave behind one thousand open dumpsites, which contain 18 billion gallons of toxic waste and still leak their deadly toxins into rivers and streams 15 years after the oil company pulled out of the region. This type of dumping was made illegal in Texas back in 1939. The soil in the area Trudie is visiting is now so full of toxic oil residues that nothing will grow; the rivers are so polluted that the fish are contaminated; and all the drinking water sources have been poisoned to some degree.
The hydrocarbon levels in the water are 280 times higher than is permitted here in the United States. People still live there. Six indigenous groups lived here for thousands of years, in harmony with the forest, before their land and water was poisoned. But now they are getting very sick. They are dying. Between 1995 and 1998 Texaco spent $40 million dollars on a cursory clean-up of the area. But the true cost to do the job properly has been estimated at SIX BILLION.
In May Trudie met a young lawyer called Pablo Fajardo. He is representing his people in court against Chevron later this year. They want Chevron to finish the clean-up job properly. They just want to be able to stay on their land, and to provide safe and healthy food and water for their children. Trudie met a woman in Ecuador called Carmen. Trudie asked her how she could help. She simply said, "Lady, get us some clean water." So Trudie made it her mission to make that happen, and the Rainforest Foundation US is going to help her do that over the next few months. Lene has shown us some of the brilliant work the Rainforest Foundation has been doing, and Trudie is fiercely proud of her involvement in this organization which has gone from strength to strength, thanks to the dedication and stamina of its staff, and thanks to the amazing generosity of its donors - mostly responsible and aware Americans like yourselves. Your support in the past and your continuing support into our future is invaluable.
But it's not only your financial support that helps the rainforests and its indigenous peoples. It's a battle for hearts and minds as well as for land. Most of us here tonight are privileged enough to be able to exert significant influence. We are a powerful group of people. We must take that responsibility very seriously. All of us here in this room tonight are suddenly extremely sexy. Leaving aside the fact that you're all very attractive people, ladies and gentlemen, what do I mean 'we're sexy'? I mean, it's cool to be seen to be green. From hybrid cars to low-energy light-bulbs, green is good and it's everywhere. The world is finally catching up with the environmentalists and conservationists who have been raising the alarm for years. Suddenly we are "eco-chic". Going green has gone upmarket, and now industry and marketing companies have jumped on board to capitalize on the new green trend.
But environmental awareness is not just a fashionable idea, or a passing phase. We must avoid getting lulled into a false sense of security. We need to beware of "greenwash". We have to insist that our leaders do what they say they are going to do. We have to keep putting pressure on them to carry on making the changes that will make a difference to the world. We have to make industry accountable for its actions in the environment, no matter where in the world they are operating. We must learn fast and teach our children a much greater respect for the earth than we have shown of late.On a local level, and on a global scale.
If I may, I'd like to leave you with a few words from Martin Luther King. He said this: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." It's time for us all to stand up and be counted. Let us be outspoken, let our voices be heard. I hope that you will all join in supporting and giving generously to empower the vital and invaluable work of the Rainforest Foundation. Thank you.