Exhibition: "Crude Reflections/Cruda Realidad"
Oil, Ruin and Resistance in the Amazon Rainforest
Saturday, October 1, 2011 - Saturday, November 5, 2011
An exhibition featuring work by photographer Lou Dematteis, chronicling the lasting human and environmental impact of Texaco's (now Chevron) oil drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon
Opening reception Saturday, October 1: 7:00pm
Exhibition through November 5, 2011
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Crude Reflections/Cruda Realidad: Oil, Ruin and Resistance in the Amazon Rainforest chronicles the human and environmental impact of Texaco’s (now Chevron) oil drilling in the Ecuadoran Amazon, where the pollution is so extensive that medical experts currently predict it will lead to thousands of deaths from cancer and contribute to the disappearance of five indigenous rainforest communities if not cleaned up. Community leaders and doctors report elevated rates of cancer, as well as birth defects and spontaneous miscarriages, among the 30,000 people living in the areas where Texaco operated from 1
964-1992. It is estimated hundreds of residents have already died.
Led by 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize winners Luis Yanza and Pablo Fajardo, five indigenous groups and 80 rainforest communities have filed a landmark legal case against Chevron. In April 2008, a court appointed consultant in Ecuador claimed that Chevron, which bought Texaco in 2001, failed to clean up billions of gallons of toxic wastewater produced by Texaco. "Chevron inherited Texaco's legacy in Ecuador," said Mitch Anderson of Amazon Watch, the environmental advocacy group. "This report validates most of the assertions the plaintiffs have been making for many years. Chevron, is responsible for an environmental disaster in Ecuador that had implications for public health, in order to make a profit."
Photographers Lou Dematteis has documented the physical and emotional reality of those affected by this toxic contamination, roughly 30 times greater than the more widely reported Exxon Valdez spill. Their powerful images are accompanied by moving first-person testimonies from the victims, and the uplifting story of efforts by local communities to seek justice and to prevent further drilling.
In 1993, I traveled to the Ecuadorian Amazon to investigate reports of extensive environmental damage and contamination as a result of large-scale oil development by the U.S. oil company Texaco (now Chevron) from 1967-1992. During that trip, a doctor from Ecuador’s Ministry of Health told me that the region was sitting on a time bomb as a result of the toxic contamination dumped and left in the environment by Texaco’s oil drilling and production operations. He told me it would take ten years for cancers and other serious health conditions to begin manifesting themselves, but once they did we would see them all over the place. When I returned to the region in 2003 after an absence of ten years, I found that the time bomb had exploded. Everywhere I turned, it seemed, I encountered people with cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems. I was determined to help give voice to the people who are living this tragedy and to their fight to force Chevron, who bought Texaco in 2001, to clean up the contamination and compensate its victims. I hope that the photographs and testimonies in “Crude Reflections: Oil, Ruin and Resistance in the Amazon Rainforest” help to do that.