Image from the movie Crude
TH: Do you see a common trend with why there is such a problem with rainforests and the humanitarian issues? Are they similar or are they vastly different from different areas?
TS: We, as a society, have wrecked our biosphere over the last 30 to 40 years. This is really a very short time. We are putting value in the things that really are not valuable, things like commodities or disposable stuff that can bought, but the rainforest has been under valued, because the value shouldn't be in the trees that you take out, it's should be with leaving the trees to preserve the life system that sustains life on the planet.
TH: In regards to Ecuador, how did you get involved with the effort there? In the movie, you said you had hearing about what was going on, what draw your attention to the point to where you are now?
TS: I have been working in Ecuador since 2004, but in an urban environment there. I had been working with UNICEF. We were building schools and having children exposed to education and to play. We were giving children three solid meals a day. Ecuador is a really beautiful, but poor country. It's desperately poor and these little kids working 12 hours a day are exposed to terrible toxic conditions. We built 60 schools through the country and raised about $500,000 which we used for aid for the people in Ecuador. When I was asked if I was interested to go to Ecuador about the Texaco/Chevron pollution, I was quite keen to go really check in on the project that I had initiated three years before, and to take a look at the situation in the rainforest.
TH: The way Crude showed the conditions of the people suffering due to the contamination was very compelling, it seemed like there is a lot of really passionate people trying to find resolution for the problems in the area. Does the movie make the problems more dramatized of a stronger story line or is that really what you saw when you got there?
TS: People in that area really have nothing, it's a hopeless situation. If you imagine yourself waking up every morning and wondering where you are going to get your water from today, that's what it is like there. They are in a life threatening situation and add to that they can't grow anything, because there's so much discarded oil in the soil. Nothing will grow. They are indigenous people and moving from their sacred land is very hard. They don't adapt very well, I've seen how peoples are deeply affected by moving off their land during the 20 years of my work. So, they are getting very sick and many are dying. Nobody is going to get well until the place has been cleaned up and they have a better access to water. We initiated a water project, which is shown in the movie.