Chevron’s New Ad Campaign Hijacked by Truth…and the Yes Men

Chevron spends around of $90 million a year on advertising, that’s over twice as much as what they spent on their sham clean up of the worst oil-related disaster on earth in Ecuador. Today that very public relations bravado and those slick advertising campaigns caught Chevron up in something they try to avoid…the truth. (We also saw this last week as Chevron CEO John Watson scurried away from tough questions at a luncheon)

Today was supposed to be Chevron’s big day. Unrolling a multi million-dollar ad campaign is like Christmas morning to corporations. This afternoon however, Chevron finds itself in a public relations debacle after their new “We Agree” ad campaign was flipped on its head by some  superb timing and creativity from the Yes Men, Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch.

Hours before Chevron launched their own campaign www.chevron-weagree.com went live along with a faux Chevron press release announcing the campaign. Expecting such a campaign to be in their inbox, because of the Wall Street Journal’s Friday scoop, some outlets reported this as Chevron’s newest ad blitz. Easy enough mistake, but while the ads look the same the content of these ad is the last topic Chevron wants to talk about in public, accountability.

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Shock: Experts say 10,000 Ecuadoreans may die by 2080 because of Chevron’s pollution.

Shockwaves rippled through the world’s largest environmental lawsuit today. A new damages assessment has been submitted in the lawsuit pitting 30,000 Indigenous peoples and local farmers against the global oil giant Chevron.

The damages assessment finds that because of factors still persisting in the Ecuadorean rainforest from Chevron’s pollution, nearly 10,000 Ecuadoreans are at significant risk of dying from cancer by the year 2080, even if Chevron cleans up the toxic contamination in the next ten years.

“The information in this submission is highly significant because it reflects clearly that there is a terrible oil-related disaster in Ecuador in the area where Chevron operated,” said Pablo Fajardo, lead lawyer for the Amazon communities. “What these analyses make chillingly clear is that thousands of Ecuadorean citizens may well contract and die of cancer in the coming decades because of Chevron’s contamination,” he added.

Continue reading ‘Shock: Experts say 10,000 Ecuadoreans may die by 2080 because of Chevron’s pollution.’

The Audacity of Oil, and What We Can to Learn From It.

Monday I watched as over 150 people marched through downtown San Francisco on the 5th anniversary on one of our country’s most devastating natural disasters, Hurricane Katrina. The energy, if not anger, of the crowd was palpable. Many in the march were asking the same question: why does it seem, five years later, we are calling for the same solutions we were calling for five days after Katrina? The answer is because Big Oil has continues business as usual, and it’s booming.  In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a most sobering example of what climate change can produce, Big Oil has only increased their record profits and decreased renewable energy investments (or in BP’s case stops it all together).

When speaking to marchers, protesters, and business folks passing by on their lunch break about big oil’s responsibilities’ in the Gulf -and around the world- two climate culprits came up more than any other, Chevron and BP.  People weren’t surprised that Chevron was the largest off-shore leaseholder in the Gulf and folks certainly knew of BP’s oil spill. People knew who is responsible, and they wanted to hold them accountable, But they struggled with how.

Continue reading ‘The Audacity of Oil, and What We Can to Learn From It.’

Chevron Now Trying to Buy Journalists. Seems Big Oil is Getting Desperate.

Big Oil never ceases to amaze me. Just today I was reading about a new round of “citizen rallies” manufactured by Big Oil front groups. I was amused that many of the sponsoring Big Oil front groups were actually front groups of the front group API.

Yet, beyond the web of election season front groups, I’ve been watching the tricks of the trade come front and center for the past 5 months in the Gulf of Mexico, as BP has resorted to the Big Oil playbook (PDF) on oil disasters. BP’s oil disaster play calling has mirrored that of Chevron’s tactics in Ecuador, where they are embroiled in a 17-year $27 billion lawsuit for their pollution in the Amazon. While both companies share the same playbook, as BP puts on a public relations dog and pony show and Chevron attempts to buy off Salt Lake City residents for $300, it’s Chevron that is beginning to turn to some desperate trick plays resembling a last second Hail Mary.

We’ve seen an illustrious chain of embarrassing Chevron snafus. There was the well-documented collusion with a known felon and former employee conspiring to bait an Ecuadorean judge. Then there was the instance in which Chevron did not like the media they were receiving on a national level. Following a scathing 60 Minutes piece exposing Chevron’s double speak and ill-crafted lies, Chevron conjured up the idea to produce their own “news reporting” for their YouTube audience. In this news report Chevron hired a retired CNN reporter to “report” their side of the story and pass it off as “journalism.” An event that nearly had the New York Times at the edge of their seat with laughter.

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Chevron Bars 20 Community Members From Houston Shareholder Meeting, Leads to 6 Arrests

Update with new video of arrests and inside report-back below:

Today in his first shareholder meeting as Chevron CEO, John Watson opened the annual shareholder meeting touting Chevron as a “good neighbor”. However, at that very same moment Watson was having communities from Houston, Alaska, Canada, Burma, Nigeria, and Colombia locked out of the shareholder meeting. Having legitimate and legal proxies, community leaders who had traveled for days to bring their community’s stories directly to Chevron’s CEO, Board of Directors, and shareholders, were silenced and disenfranchised.

Of 27 delegates from the True Cost of Chevron Network, all with valid legal proxy statements, only 7 were allowed to enter the meeting. This action directly contradicts Chevron’s own policies and potentially violates their own corporate governance laws.

“This is the way we have been treated at home and meeting them here was no different,” explained Emem Okom, founder of the Kebetkuche Women Development and Resource Center of Nigeria.

In an immediate response to Chevron’s lock-out, impacted community members and campaigners staged a blockade sit-in at the entrance of Chevron’s meeting (pictures). As a crowd of over 40 people raised their voices chanting “Let Them In” the sit-in participants committed to not leave until all voices were heard.

The 4 were arrested on trespassing charges and hauled into waiting police vans (pictures). The four arrested at the entrance were Juan Parras a long time environmental justice activist in Houston and founder of TEJAS, an EJ group fighting refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast; Rev. Jerome Davis a livelong civil rights hero who marched in Selma and has long fought for environmental justice in Richmond, CA; and Mitch Anderson and Han Shan from Amazon Watch, an organization working in solidarity with Indigenous communities fighting Chevron in Ecuador.

Before his arrest, Reverend Davis stated, “I represent an area where there is no beautyshop, groceries, or cleaners. Our industry is Chevron. My people breathe their contamination every day and are constantly sick. Our health is not for sale.” He embodied that today.

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James Cameron, the Oscar’s, and the Real-Life ‘Avatar’.

It’s Oscar time and people are all counting the days until we can sit down, play the Oscar polls, critique the Oscar De La Renta dresses, and cringe at the hot mess that is Mariah Carey. Oddly enough I’m now eagerly waiting with them this year; not to compare my impeccable eye for style, or guess the winner of the Best Song (Weary Heart, from Crazyheart duh), but to see if James Cameron, director of that little movie that could, will put some action where his mouth is.

In recent weeks James Cameron himself has been calling Avatar a catalyst for environmental action saying he now wants to “use the spotlight that’s been put on him by Avatar’s success to bring attention to environmental causes“. This caught the eye of Rainforest Action Network’s Becky Tarbotton. On yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle website Tarbotton started a call to Mr. Cameron to help expose the “real-life Avatar” that Chevron continues to enable in Ecuador.

In the article Tarbotton asks:

“What if in his acceptance speech James Cameron mentioned the real-life Indigenous Ecuadorean heroes who are battling the real-life evil oil corporation Chevron?

She then continues:

If Director James Cameron accepts an Academy Award next month, he should let his faithful fans know that while Pandora is fictional, what is happening to communities in Ecuador because of Chevron’s actions is as real as it gets.”

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Chevron CEO John Watson: Is the New Boss Same as the Old Boss?

Chevron has a new boss man, and in an ironic kick in the pants Chevron’s new CEO John Watson is the very man that orchestrated Chevron’s takeover of Texaco, and with it the 18 billion gallons of toxic waste water and 17 million gallons of crude oil deliberately dumped in Ecuadorian rainforest communities. Given Watson’s intimate understanding of Chevron’s toxic legacy there is no question he knows what is necessary to clean up their mess and compensate the communities that have been living with the effects of Chevron’s contamination for decades.

The Clean Up Ecuador Campaign has launched a global petition to Mr. Watson, with an accompanying video-message (below) from the affected communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Watson is stepping into a mess that former CEO Dave O’Reilly left behind when he skipped out on the reeling company on 12/31. Unfortunately, judging the reaction by Chevron today in Houston where marathon runners had their free speech silenced, and comments attacking Amazon Watch’s global petition in yesterday’s Sphere article it seems that Watson is committed to enabling the same negligence towards human rights as his predecessor. Watson may choose to define his tenure by continuing down the O’Reilly path that just last year had Chevron publicly aligning themselves with known felons, losing precedent setting refinery battles, being wholly rejected by the US Trade Representative, and being a lightning rod for a thriving climate justice movement at their front door.

However, dealt such a rotten hand Mr. Watson stands at the most opportune time for an oil giant’s CEO to actually step it up…or just step in it. RAN’s newest campaign Change Chevron see that Watson holds an unmatched opportunity to right past wrongs and transform an industry from criminal to catalyst. Yet, there is a long way to go. Prior to this moment Chevron has not only ignored the communities they impact, they blatantly insult them. Chevron relies on lobbying and a brutal PR campaign to evade responsibility of, what experts call, the “Amazon Chernobyl”. As a recent Independent article points out Chevron seems to be standing firm in it’s refusal to pay any damages, even if ordered in a court.  In fact a Chevron spokesman has promised a “lifetime of litigation.”

Will Watson build a tenure on human rights or legal fights?

Continue reading ‘Chevron CEO John Watson: Is the New Boss Same as the Old Boss?’

Japanese Youth Go Green, Call For Japan To “Save Copenhagen”

UPDATE — New video from our meeting with the Japanese delegation.

Japan could shift the course of the climate talks with a strong finance proposal. It’s a huge part of Copenhagen, the financing of the $200 billion per year fund for climate change adaptation and mitigation. One of the countries that could be the lynchpin to these funds being allocated by the Annex 1 countries that need to pay their fair share in climate debt is Japan. Countries like the US have made short term financing suggestions but nothing in-line with what is really needed.  Japan like the US are needed to support poorer countries in climate change adaptation funds so that they can transition to clean energy economies and take immediate action to save the communities most impacted by climate change.

The Japanese youth delegation know the potential that exists for Japan to be a climate leader on finance. They realize Japan has the opportunity to be a leader in  unlocking the additional financing caught up in political posturing and rhetoric. To crank up this message the youth delegation joined the Avaaz aliens to take demands directly to Japan’s delegation; demands that humans can’t seem to muster up the courage to ask. Hiroyuki Hori and Jouju Vechi from Tokyo, and Yaicha Bookhout of Missoula suited up and went green to hunt down the Japanese representatives. They were determined to deliver the statement ( see below) Japanese youth statement to Japan’s negotiators

Word spread to the Japan’s offices as the aliens wondered the hallways calling for Japan to take up a climate leadership role in Copenhagen. The aliens were essentially asking Japan to save Copenhagen as without real finances there is no real deal. Japan quickly sent message to the aliens that the Japanese delegates would like to meet with the aliens and make a statement on what they are asking of Japan!

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“Listen to the Islands”

Moments ago in Copenhagen’s COP15 meetings, 100’s of people lined the entry way to the main plenary to stand with Tuvalu and all small island nations or AOSIS. Earlier today, Tuvalu showed true leadership at COP15, showing ambition by attempting to initiate an open conversation on how the world can achieve a legally binding treaty. However just mere suggestion of transparent communication, or “formal contact group”, was thumbed away by rich nations trying to continue back-room negotiations that are wrecking havoc on a real deal in Copenhagen. While entire countries like Tuvalu combat raising sea levels, the richest countries refuse to pony up fair financing and set targets ambitious enough to avoid complete climate catastrophe.

Rich nations bound determination to continue with a business as usual mentality, or “informal talks”, forced Tuvalu to appeal for temporary suspension of the Kyoto Track of the COP15 (one of the two major tracks hey re) realizing that transparent talks  are essential to their survival and to achieving a fair and binding treaty. Word of these developments spread fast through the conference center and as the plenary came back to their reinitialized  session 100’s were standing there to greet them.

video below.

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From Copenhagen to Brussels: EU LEAD!

In the last three hours, over 100 people at the Bella Center in Copenhagen and more than 3,600 around Europe joined Avaaz to phone calls to European leaders urging them to be a deal maker. Angela Merkel of Germany, Lars Lokke Rasmussen of Denmark, and Gordon Brown of the UK are a few of the popular targets for today’s “Skype Call Center”.

I’m standing next to over 50 youth wrapped around the corner ready to make calls. It’s great, you can clearly hear people’s voices raise as their concerns are heard over the phone, even over the hustle and bustle of the COP (we did set up shop right out side the main meeting hall so all EU delegates could see the pressure we were laying down on their decision makers).
You can feel the excitement, but also the urgency in here.  Yesterday there was a protest of the African Union as rumors spread around the conference center of new burdens on poor nations while creating more loopholes for the developed countries.
The aim of the phonebank is to get the EU to offer real money – specific contributions by 2020 of additional public finance rather than stealing aid money for climate or exploiting accounting tricks. In simple terms many EU countries want their climate financing to come from already committed funds, meaning everything from nutrition to AIDS funding could be stolen in a quick accounting trick! We must have the The EU identify NEW and ADDITIONAL funding sources like aviation and shipping revenues and increase global finance for developing countries to $200 billion by 2020 euros.

Nick Magel


Nick Magel is not a fan of oil companies (or any fossil fuel for that matter). He's fortunate to have worked with folks that hold similar views while Communications Manager at Amazon Watch in San Francisco. Prior to that Nick served as Director of the Freedom from Oil campaign at Global Exchange. Nick went to graduate school at the Audubon Expedition Institute where he focused on radicalizing education models while developing a deeper application of critical and feminist pedagogies in environmental education.

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