On Tuesday, February 27, the UC Berkeley Energy Symposium announced that it was voiding its $50,000 sponsorship arrangement with Dow Chemical due to a student government resolution concerns Dow’s unresolved responsibilities in Bhopal, India, scene of the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster. The organizers cited a 2004 student government resolution for their decision, which called on the University to divest and reject donations from Dow until it cleaned up abandoned chemical waste left at the Bhopal factory site.
“We are very happy to hear of BERC’s decision,” said Kamal Kapadia, a doctoral student at Berkeley. “This sends a clear message to Dow that it cannot continue to ignore the suffering it has inflicted on hundreds of thousands of people in Bhopal. Until the company takes full responsibility for its actions and meets the demands of the Bhopal survivors, all their attempts at greenwashing, like sponsoring this clean energy event, will be exposed and rejected for their deep hypocrisy.”
Resolution #198 was passed in 2004 by the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), which represents Berkeley’s 33,000 students. Sponsored by a coalition of South Asian and environmental student groups, the resolution calls on the University of California to divest from Dow Chemical, the world’s second-largest chemical company, and refuse all donations from the company. Dow is a major donor to the University of California, Berkeley, with cumulative donations totaling $4.3 million as of October 2003.
In a statement emailed to UC Berkeley students and faculty, the conference organizers cited the Bhopal resolution as the basis for their decision. “In light of the ASUC resolution, the BERC leadership has decided that it is important to respect our organization’s role as a representative of the larger Berkeley student community. Therefore, BERC will abide by the ASUC resolution and not use Dow funding for the 2007 Berkeley Energy Symposium.”
The UC Berkeley Energy Symposium is organized by the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative (BERC), and promises to “bring together 150 of Berkeley’s leading researchers in energy technology, economics, and policy with the top cleantech investors, industry experts, and entrepreneurs.” Scheduled speakers include Robert Birgeneau, the Chancellor of UC Berkeley and Commissioner Art Rosenfeld of the California Energy Commission. The conference will focus on the role of UC Berkeley in creating a sustainable energy future.
On December 3rd, 1984, thousands of people in Bhopal, India, were gassed to death after a catastrophic chemical leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant. More than 150,000 people were left severely disabled—of whom 22,000 have since died of their injuries¬—in a disaster now widely acknowledged as the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster. Today, those who survived the gas remain sick, and the chemicals that Union Carbide left behind in Bhopal have poisoned the water supply and contributed to an epidemic of cancers, birth defects, and other afflictions. Since its purchase of Carbide in 2001, Dow Chemical has refused to clean up the site, which continues to contaminate those near it; fund medical care or livelihood regeneration; or present Union Carbide to face criminal charges of “culpable homicide” (manslaughter) from which it has been absconding since 1991.