Wednesday night, 28-Oct-2009, Dow Chemical and the New Yorker hosted a party to focus on clean water in an upscale Manhattan venue – Bhopal and Agent Orange advocates collaborated to make sure it would be an event to remember for Dow and a fantastic awareness-raising opportunity. The event was invitation only but some advocates were able to get inside, while others stayed outside making sure people coming in got flyers about Dow and periodically chanted ‘Dow and New Yorker sitting in a tree K-I-L-L-I-N-G’ and other chants, much to the chagrin of the legion of New Yorker and Milk Studios staff guarding the front door.
Those who got inside really raised a ruckus, watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PX0K7zSIcSI
From one advocate inside who spoke up:
Inside during the cocktail hour, prior to the actual event, I spoke with two people who separately mentioned the protests outside. One person only understood that “someone” outside were “not happy with Dow”, while the other person expressed full out support. Naturally none of us revealed at this point to anyone inside that we were in collusion with “those” protesters staged outside.
The official program went along for about 70 minutes with presentations by all 3 speakers as well as the moderator. For good measure they were the following:
– John Oldfield, moderator (of Water Advocates, former USAID and NY based corporate equity firm)
– Alexandra Cousteau (spokesperson for Dow Live Earth Run for water)
– Scott Harrison (Charity: Water)
– Ian M. Barbour (Dow dressed in a suit!), General Manager of Dow Water and Process Solutions.
The presentations mainly consisted of a few infomercials, including Dow’s commercial “the human element” that caused a few of us to throw up, as well as other somewhat superficial statements about water scarcity and the wonders and generosity of western development.
After it became clear that there would be no actual Q&A session I got up and, happily being able to interrupt Ian Barbour (of Dow Chemical), loudly asked Scott Harrison and Alexandra Cousteau directly what sort of considerations they had prior to engaging in this endeavour, about working with Dow Chemical, represented by the person sitting between them (Ian Barbour), owner of Union Carbide, responsible for the world’s worst industrial disaster in Bhopal, India 1984, which killed thousands of people! Dow is an absconder from justice, named as a defendant in the court in India. To this day the people in Bhopal are still drinking polluted ground water, pollution caused by the plant left behind at Dow’s Union Carbide plant! Calling out the names of Scott and Alexandra again, I asked (or rather yelled because I was at this point well on my way to the exit, courtesy of 5 men in suits forming a hostile circle around me) “how do you reconcile working with a company that portrays itself as being environmentally conscious but clearly does not practice what it preaches?!”
Early on the audience was supportive and at the end expressed overwhelming support of us by clapping. A second advocate got up shortly afterwards and asked a question about DOW’s pending criminal liabilities in Bhopal. Again, surprisingly, the DOW representative did not even try to spin anything and just sat glowering and silent. The moderator stepped in, but the advocate repeated the question loudly, hoping to get a response from the DOW representative. At this point unfortunately, he too was escorted out of the building. Like the first exit his questions too were accompanied by loud applause from the audience and some in the audience started leaving in support.
One person stayed inside hoping that an opportunity would arise to ask a question that Ian Barbour with Dow could not simply dismiss but would be forced to answer. Unfortunately they did not open such an opportunity during the brief period that remained.
The support from people attending the event was overwhelmingly positive. About 70% of the approximately 130 people attending were supportive, ranging from a nod of appreciation outside after the event to outright indictments of Dow and the pornographic infomercial that all of us had just been subjected to. I think it’s reasonably safe to say that the event did not turn out in Dow’s favor, despite Dow’s “best” efforts.
Outside after the event we all joined with Vietnam Agent Orange who had been protesting in front of the street exit throughout the event. Many people came to talk and by the end we had given away all our flyers and all of our 65 bottles of B’eau Pal water – “courtesy of Dow”!
www.bhopal.net/blog_pr/archives/2009/06/house_members_c.html (Statement by U.S. Members of Congress)
DOW Chemical is stepping in to the water “market” (as they call it in their promotional literature) in order to turn even higher profits for their share-holders and executives. Water is not a commodity and should not be treated as such!
On behalf of all Bhopali’s and victims of DOW’s Agent Orange in Vietnam, we urge “Charity: water” and “Blue Legacy”, whose work seems sincere, to stand WITH the people they are trying hard to help and to make demands of DOW Chemical, a company they themselves have chosen as bedfellows (CLICK HERE to see the DEMANDS)