A Shellish Faux Pas
World Wildlife Fund nominates Shell for an "environmental"
Earth Island Institute Journal, Winter (Southern
To the horror of most of the environmental community, the
World Wildlife Fund [WWF, 800 - 26 - PANDA] nominated Shell and
three other oil companies for a 1997 British Columbia Minister's
Environmental Award. The reason: The four companies agreed to
give up their rights to explore for oil off BC's Queen Charlotte
"As the WWF was filling in the forms for this nomination,
19 Ogoni activists were likely being tortured in a Nigerian jail,"
observed Anuradha Mittal, policy director of the US-based Institute
for Food and Development Policy. "Their crime was protesting
Shell for extracting oil on their tribal homelands."
Shell's cooperation with Nigeria's military dictatorship has
extended to buying weapons for the military suppression of anti-Shell
activists and maintaining its complicity in the death of Nigerian
author-poet playwright-activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. (Shell secretly
offered to intervene to save Saro Wiwa's life-on the condition
that he cease his political activism.)
Pegi Dover, WWF Canada's communications director, replied
that WWF was not being hypocritical, only practical. Dover said
that WWF does not "summarily rule out working with whole
sectors [of the corporate community] by subscribing to 'anti'
ideologies (e.g., anti-logging, anti-hunting, anti-corporate or
anti-labor).... WWF holds strongly to its right to act independently
in the best interests of conservation."
Dover wrote that WWF "has not commented on the overall
environmental record of any of the four oil companies and does
not anticipate doing so."
Insisting that WWF had expressed concern over Saro-Wiwa's
death on a military gallows, Dover quoted from the WWF's official
statement which characterized the hangings as "symptomatic
of the wider environmental and social problems created by the
inequitable distribution of oil wealth in Nigeria." The quoted
statement contained no mention of Shell Oil.
In 1995, the Georgia Strait Alliance received a $5,000 grant
from Shell Canada Ltd. for public education work. Following the
Nigerian executions, the cash-starved Alliance returned all the
money, along with a strong letter of protest. (The Alliance subsequently
received Vancouver's 1996 Ethics in Action Award.)
WWF maintains that acting in the best interests of conservation
takes precedence over acting in the best interests of humanity.
What does it matter that environmentalists hang in Nigeria while
Shell's oil coats Ogoni farmlands, pollutes streams and contributes
to global warming with its flared gases? The important thing is
that the Charlotte Islands' waters remain oil free.
WWF's nomination is the moral equivalent of bestowing honors
upon a serial killer in exchange for his promise not to poison
Update: Shell did not win the award.