Groups in Atlanta Call Dow Out at Live Earth
When the runners reached the finish line at the sparsely attended Atlanta’s Live Earth “Run for Water” sponsored by Dow Chemical on April 18th, a small row of people holding signs, banners, petitions, some appropriately marked faux-contaminated water that some residents of Bhopal, India have been left to consume because of Dow and flyers about Dow’s environmental violations around the world greeted them along with the race organizers and other vendors at Pemberton Place in downtown Atlanta.
The 2010 Live Earth event, the 6K “Run for Water,” was meant to symbolize the shortage of water around the world with runners covering “the average distance many women and children walk every day to secure water.” All well and good. Except for one extremely important and major oversight. The main sponsor of this 150 city (apparently some cities cancelled the runs) run, Dow Chemical, has a legacy of contaminating water supplies and rivers in communities around the world. There is the pending clean up that continues to poison about 30,000 people every day in Bhopal, India. The Tittabawassee River in Midland, Michigan has over 80 times the legal limit of carcinogenic dioxin, thanks to Dow. Louisiana, Texas in the United States as well as Canada, Brazil, New Zealand and Vietnam are all recipients of Dow’s toxic chemicals.
The fact that Dow keeps trying to greenwash their reputation, rather than actually address the pollution they have caused, is par for their course. But that Live Earth would fall for these tactics and partner so visibly with someone like Dow and that too for the cause of water is beyond ironic.
And the irony was not lost on many of the runners and participants who stopped by to talk to the protesters, read the signs and the flyer and signed the petition demanding Dow to take up their liabilities in Bhopal, India and clean up the sites in Michigan and the various other areas if they wanted to sponsor Live Earth. Moved by a sign about Agent Orange—a chemical produced by Dow that poisoned hundreds of thousands of people during the Vietnam War—one of the runners joined the protesters and held up the sign. She said she had not known about the extent of damage that Dow continues to cause and ended up cutting out the Dow logos from her event T-shirt in front of the crowds and cameras.
Many runners who approached the protesters said that they wanted the organizers of the race to know that they did not support Dow and spoke to the media as well. Some Dow reps approached the protesters holding up the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy signs and spouted the various theories about sabotage (that have long been refuted) and that Dow did not own the chemical plant at the time of the accident. The protesters peacefully remind them that Union Carbide India Ltd. was bought over by Dow and Dow has taken liabilities of Union Carbide elsewhere, so why not in India?
Once the race ended and the concert started in Pemberton Place, which the protesters were not allowed to enter, more protesters lined up the sidewalk facing the entrance and waited for people to enter and leave the concert. As the event wrapped up around noon, it was clear that the rub of green that DOW was trying for with this event, did not quite go its way in Atlanta. Other than individual supporters, including students and community members, the groups who organized the action in Atlanta included the local chapter of Association for India’s Development, International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal and Human Rights Atlanta.
Details on Dow’s Dirty Dozen, the dozen cities & countries where the company has been poisoning the environment as well as the continuing struggle of the people in Bhopal, visit: www.bhopal.net