AUDIO FILE: Nigerian Oil Activist, Omoyele Sorowe
Omoyele Sowore is a Nigerian Oil activist traveling through the United States educating people about tragic conditions in his country caused by our planetary addiction to petroleum. He spoke of the pollution of the Niger delta in Africa, of torture, of rampant and escalating poverty in a country producing 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, 25% of which goes to the U.S. Niger is the 6th largest producer of oil in the world.
Wednesday evening, November 15, 2006, at the Templeton Council Chambers at Lewis and Clark College, I expected to hear a litany of environmental degradations, of outrageous human rights abuses by a government in servitude to Big Oil. While these were indeed a part of his story, the story Sowore told was much warmer, much more connected to the earth, much more a telling of life growing up in the culture of Niger, Africa, and how this life and culture was slowly being destroyed.|
As Sowore was growing up, his father always made excuses for what was happening to the land and water around them. "the kind of education that our parent had is such that they were conditioned, if not warned directly, not to let out these secrets ( of what was happening to the environment) to the children......so we would ask questions about the fish, the vegetation. my dad always had an excuse or something to tell us."
His father would make excuses for the brackishness of the water, for the mass dying of fishes, for the death of their livestock, blaming it on natural conditions or on actions of the "gods." But as Sowore grew older his father dropped the pretense and told him the truth. The fish or livestock were not dying because they lived out their life as all thing do in the natural cycle of things but because of Big Oil.
"We found out from my dad the the Niger Delta area was the middle of a network of pipes that have been constructed over the years that takes oil from the place where they call 'the farm,' where the actual drilling takes place, to the barge which takes the oil from the Atlantic ocean to maybe New Jersey of Amsterdam where it becomes refined and processed and becomes gas."
Oil exploration began in the Niger Delta region 1956, the first wells being drilled by Shell. Since that time, the government, at the behest of the petroleum industry scooping enormous profits from the area, have repressed, tortured and assassinated any who sought to organize against their fascist control of the country. Omoyele himself has been arrested and tortured on more than one occasion, and hopes that by telling his story he can help alert the world to the damage our addiction to oil is causing.
He tells the story of the ongoing destruction of the Niger Delta, not as a series of statistics, but as how it affected him growing up, affected his education and finally forced him to abandon his country in order to carry a message few people in the developed countries really want to hear or seriously consider. These remarks were not directed specifically to save his country, but more broadly, to include all people, all living things, all that exists upon this brightly spinning sphere.
As Emerson said so wisely, "our virtues come in moments; our vices are habitual." The criminal destruction of our planet, our home, is committed by millions of little acts, every day, every week, every month, every year, mostly unconsciously, by a relatively small portion of us who live upon it. These acts are habitual, entrenched, requiring a deliberate, conscious effort of conscience to break ourselves out of that track. This effort is already being made; this battle is well under way. Many voices are speaking in many languages and from many cultures. It is not a whisper, but nonetheless remains feint and hard to discern; it is not hysterical, but speaks to the scientific truth of our condition; it is not a scattered and dissolute, but comes strongly and directly from the hand, heart and head of the best that is in us all, the best that is in us all.
Omoyele Sowore is adding his voice to that effort, already visiting 30 of the states. He concludes his hour long presentation talking about the necessity of changing our behavior regarding energy consumption, and how this may be accomplished.
Omoyele Sowore, RealPlayer
Omoyele Sowore, MP3
To learn more about energy and environmental justice, visit
Energy Justice Network
Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative
Rising Tide North America
For perspectives on climate change and what can be done about it:
Oil and Autos
What are the youth of the world doing?
Energy Action Coalition
Campus Climate Challenge
A Website Guide to Breaking Our Addiction to Dirty Energy
Global Exchange, admit we have a problem
Oil Change International, separate oil and state
JumpStart Ford, jump-start detroit
Critical Mass, changing american mobility
Plug in America
Energy Action Coalition, start a rooftop revolution
New Energy Future, green the grid
Dirty Money, wean to green and fund the future
Rocky Mountain Institute, adopt a 'low carb' energy diet
Energy Action Coalition, take our campuses back
Adbusters, Global Media Democracy, reclaim the airwaves
add a comment on this article