Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cultures of Energy Liveblog 2

Suzana Sawyer: it's great to be here talking about oil. My father was a petroleum geologist, my grandfather was a civil engineer. I've grown up oil. So it's rather daunting to be here. I applaud the initiative you have here at Rice.

I'm going to be talking about this lawsuit. I was doing dissertation research not around Texaco/Chevron, but Arco. It was expanding in Ecuador. The Texaco experience was the backdrop.

The lawsuit proceeded. It had a long life in the federal court system. It was sent to Ecuador in 2003. I will now present a chapter from a new book that's looking at the lawsuit from 5 different angles.

This research is largely based on documents, the case file is 200 000 pages. For the most part it's not ethnography. During the course of the lawsuit I've been in the region twice.

"The Toxic Matter of Crude: Law, Science and Indeterminacy in Ecuador and Beyond."

Texaco spewing of industrial waste in 35 years' operation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Endangered human health and devastated the local ecology. Judge, observers, inhabitants, traveled through the affected area. Two written reports: multiple appendices; hundreds of pages; each map an inspection site.

Geomorphic and chemical composition of the samples taken. In line with the civil law tradition, the expeditions were the discovery phase of the trial.

The reports emerging from them are an integral part of the evidence for the judge's ruling in 2011.

At the heart: the capacity to (de)materialize the presence of toxic elements. The toxicity was in question, not the presence of crude. Soils dispersed at various points were said to be contaminated.

By contrast, reports that the defendants submitted reached opposite conclusions. "No oil related risk to public health from the environment." (cont.)

No comments: