Tag Archives: 19th Anniversary

Students for Bhopal Targets Dow’s Decision-Makers

By Ryan Bodanyi

Over the past three years, students have made it difficult for Dow’s decision-makers to ignore Bhopal, much as they might like to. In fact our efforts have shown how much power even a few students can have when they bring Bhopal ‘home’ to Dow.

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In Mr. Parker’s Neighborhood 

On Bhopal’s 18th anniversary, Dec. 3rd, 2002, students organized their first protest targeting a Dow executive. More than a dozen students from the University of Michigan traveled to Midland, Dow’s headquarters, to protest outside the home of Dow’s then-CEO, Michael Parker. Dow was forewarned of the trip and we expected to find a darkened and empty house. You can imagine our surprise when, quite the contrary, we found that Michael Parker was hosting a full-blown party on the night of the Bhopal Anniversary. Fancy cars lined the streets and the laughter inside could be heard clearly throughout the Parker estate. Was this the way that Dow’s CEO chose to commemorate the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster, for which his company was now liable? It boggled the mind.

Lugging our vigil candles, Bhopal banners, tombstones and posters to the door, we were doubly surprised when he came out himself to meet us. We shouldn’t have been; Parker had long cultivated a reputation as a smooth talker, able to disarm activists with his friendly recital of Dow’s PR talking points. It was a skill he’d used often before, and he may have relished the thought of doing so now, before the television camera crews on his front lawn. Whatever his intentions may have been, things didn’t work out as he’d planned. The laughter and tinkling of glasses from the party behind him made his professions of sympathy sound foolish and hollow, and our rapid-fire questions put him off guard. The liquor we smelled on his breath may also have been a factor; before long, we could tell that he was ready to snap. He did so when a small protestor at his shoulder pointed out that the Polluter Pays principle was the law in India, and that Dow should follow the law. “That’s your OPINION!” he shouted into her face, towering above her. On video, it didn’t look good.

Nine days later, Michael Parker was forced to resign as Dow’s CEO. In its statement, Dow explained that the move had been made for “financial” reasons.

Milwaukee19 James Ringler

Milwaukee3 James Ringler

Outside the home of James Ringler

 

 

 

“That worked so well,” we thought, “let’s try it again!” For the 19th anniversary of the disaster, we decided to deliver samples of contaminated water from Bhopal direct to the doors of Dow Boardmembers across the country. After what had happened last year, they were expecting us. At the time Dow’s Board included a former Senator and Secretary of Commerce, a MacArthur “genius” award-winner, the former President of Princeton University, and the CEOs of several major American corporations. These powerful, influential, and important people had a decision to make: they could attempt to repeat Michael Parker’s failed performance by appearing at the door to talk about Bhopal or – faced with a few students, a sample of Bhopal water, and a just cause – they could flee in fear. Can you guess which option they chose?

Yep, they chose to flee. Students across the country found darkened homes with the shades drawn tight – if any members of the Board were home, it certainly seemed like they were under the bed. In fact, students were only successful in speaking with one of Dow’s 14 Boardmembers – Harold Shapiro, the former President of Princeton University. Conveniently enough, he’d scheduled a public speech for the day before the anniversary – and it was on bioethics. After the talk several Princeton students presented him with his sample of contaminated water from Bhopal. He was not happy.

Feel like getting in on the fun? You, too, can make Dow’s Boardmembers unhappy by reminding them of their ability – and responsibility – to end the killing in Bhopal.

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Dow under global siege on December 3rd

More than 65 events in 16 countries marked the first Global day of Action Against Corporate Crime in commemoration of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster. Members of unions, students, grassroots organisations, politicians, NGOs, individuals and Bhopal survivors were amongst the people taking part yesterday. Directors of Dow and regional headquarters have been confronted by protestors offering evidence of ongoing crimes in Bhopal.

Students across the US delivered samples of contaminated water from Bhopal to the homes of eleven of Dow’s fourteen Board members, including the CEO, William Stavropoulos. At Princeton University Dow director Harold Shapiro was given contaminated water from Bhopal communities. “We feel that this was a clear admission of liability on the part of Dow-Carbide,” said Sujata Ray, a member of Students for Bhopal. “Now that Dow-Carbide has accepted a sample of this contamination, thanks to Mr. Shapiro, we hope that the company will act swiftly to clean up its remaining pollution in Bhopal. Until it does so, we intend to continue and intensify our organizing here at Princeton and across the country.”

In Mumbai over 100 students, volunteers and activists lay down on the pavement on Marine Drive to recreate the horror of Bhopal. Chalk outlines were drawn around the ‘bodies’ on Marine Drive and banners displayed saying ‘Remember Bhopal’ and ‘Dow – you have the blood of Bhopal on your hands.’ “Bhopal has become the icon for corporate negligence resulting in death and destruction, representing the thousand Bhopal-like disasters that take place all across India,” said Vinod Shetty, an eminent lawyer and ICJB activist.

In Switzerland, ICJB member Greenpeace delivered a replica of the memorial statue that stands outside the factory in Bhopal to Dow’s European headquarters in Horgen. In Copenhagen, Greenpeace activists also drew the outline of corpses on the ground in front of the Dow offices while others protested in front of the American Embassy. Greenpeace also announced a campaign to invite people around the world send a toxic message in a bottle to Dow.

In the Scottish parliament, Scottish Socialist Party MP Frances Curran presented a Bhopal motion (S2M-668 Frances Curran: Bhopal Anniversary) reiterating each of the survivors’ demands to Dow. In London, members of the Global Women’s Strike and the ICJB used a sound system to broadcast facts about Dow and Bhopal to the Houses of Parliament. “War profiteers Dow-Carbide sold huge amounts of pesticides that cause death by asphyxiation to Iraq, nine months after Halabja,” said the ICJB’s Tim Edwards, “the gassing of Halabja was used by the US and Britain as one reason to mobilise a war against Iraq. Yet the gassing of Bhopal, a much larger city than Halabja, has left Dow-Carbide carrying on business as usual. They must be brought to justice.”

In Bhopal, survivors have been exhilarated by events. “This year with help from supporters worldwide we have succeeded in pressuring the Indian government to move on the extradition of Warren Anderson and have mobilized international opinion against Union Carbide’s new owner Dow Chemical at an unprecedented scale. As we enter the 20th year of our struggle for justice, there are protests against Dow Chemical all over India and the world,” said Rashida Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS). BGPMSKS, a trade union of gas-affected stationery workers in Bhopal is also the co-convenor of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. “We are confident that we will be able to force Dow Chemical and the Indian government to address pending liabilities in Bhopal.”

A huge huge thanks and big Bhopali hugs to all those who have taken part in the Global day of action. Please keep checking the GDA updates page for more news and details of the international actions as they come in.

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DOW FACES FIRST NATIONWIDE STUDENT PROTESTS SINCE VIETNAM ON ANNIVERSARY OF BHOPAL DISASTER

Students from 26 colleges, universities and high schools organized nationwide protests against Dow Chemical yesterday, Dec. 3rd, as a part of the first-annual Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime. Dow Chemical, which was key manufacturer of chemical warfare agents Napalm and Agent Orange, faced such widespread protests for the first time since the Vietnam War due to its February 2001 acquisition of Union Carbide — the perpetrator of the Bhopal disaster. The protests, organized by Students for Bhopal , Association for India’s Development (AID) chapters, and the Environmental Justice Program of the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) , called on Dow to accept its moral and legal responsibility for the world’s worst industrial disaster.

On December 3rd, 1984, a toxic cloud of gas from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, enveloped the surrounding city, leaving thousands dead. More than 20,000 have died till date and more than 120,000 people still suffer from severe health problems as a result of their exposure. Chemicals and heavy metals that Union Carbide abandoned at the site—including mercury, trichloroethene, chloroform, and lead—have contaminated the water supply for 20,000 Bhopal residents. Despite acquiring Union Carbide, Dow Chemical has refused to address Carbide’s pending liabilities in Bhopal, that include medical and economic rehabilitation of victims, clean up of toxic wastes and contaminated groundwater, and provision of safe drinking water. Union Carbide is a proclaimed fugitive from justice for its failure to appear in Indian courts to face trial for manslaughter.

Students across the country delivered samples of contaminated water from Bhopal to the homes of eleven of Dow’s fourteen Board members, including the CEO, William Stavropoulos. Although many of the deliveries were either refused or ignored, Dr. Harold T. Shapiro, the President Emeritus of Princeton University and an 18-year member of Dow Chemical’s Board of Directors, accepted a sample of the contaminated water following an open talk to the Princeton community on bioethics. Dr. Shapiro also accepted the testimonial of a Bhopal victim.

“The contamination that Dow-Carbide left behind in Bhopal is their responsibility, and it belongs in their hands,” said Sujata Ray, a member of the Princeton AID chapter that presented the water. “We’re pleased that Dr. Shapiro, when faced with the consequences of his company’s inaction in Bhopal, accepted a sample of the contamination on behalf of Dow-Carbide. Unfortunately the behavior of the other Board members typifies that of Dow-Carbide, which continues to deny and evade their legal and moral responsibilities in Bhopal.”

“Clearly, the water contamination in Bhopal is an issue that needs to be brought ‘home’ to Dow-Carbide,” declared Jaimini Parekh, an SSC member who organized a “return-to-sender” action against Board member Jackie Barton. “Dow-Carbide has seemed content to condemn the survivors of Bhopal to wallow in the contamination that it left behind. The fact that Dow-Carbide has not acted to stop the ongoing contamination of tens of thousands—for which it is responsible—is inhumane, unjust, and immoral.”

Several rallies were held outside of Dow-Carbide offices and facilities, including those in Dallas, Texas and Smithfield, Rhode Island. As during the Vietnam War, students also protested against college affiliations with Dow-Carbide, including recruitment, investment, and financial contributions.

“Students are outraged,” said Ryan Bodanyi, an organizer with Students for Bhopal. “They don’t want their colleges and universities accepting money from a corporation that maintains its profit margins by poisoning people and blithely standing aside as they die. Dow-Carbide’s callous disregard for the value of human life hasn’t changed much since the Vietnam War, and students aren’t going to be any more forgiving now than they were then. Dow-Carbide should expect these protests to continue and intensify.”

“We’re not going to allow Dow-Carbide to get away with murder,” declared Nishant Jain, one of the leaders of AID’s Austin chapter. “Enron’s crimes may have cost people their retirement portfolios, but Dow-Carbide’s crimes in Bhopal have cost tens of thousands of people their health and their lives. People are fed up with corporate violations of our labor, environmental, and human rights, which is why so many people have united to take action on the anniversary of Bhopal, a particularly heinous corporate crime.”

Thousands of people from sixteen countries participated in the Global Day of Action in solidarity against Dow-Carbide and other corporate criminals. Events and actions took place in 16 cities across India, including Bhopal, as well as in the Netherlands, UK, USA, Lebanon, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Philippines, China, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain, Bangladesh, Canada, and Italy.

CONTACT: Ryan Bodanyi, Students for Bhopal, (401) 829-6192
CONTACT: Nishant Jain, Association for India’s Development, (512) 422-7169
CONTACT: Jaimini Parekh, Sierra Student Coalition, (626) 355-9612
CONTACT: Sujata Ray, Association for India’s Development, (609) 279-0952

Students participated at:
Brown University
CalTech
University of California (Berkeley)
University of Chicago
University of Colorado (Boulder)
Flintridge Preparatory School (Sierra Madre, CA)
Georgia State
Georgia Tech
Highland Park High School (Dallas, TX)
University of Illinois (Urbana-Champlain)
Johns Hopkins University
Lake Forest College
Loyola University
University of Maryland (College Park)
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
MIT
Penn State (University Park)
Portland State University
Princeton
Occidental College
Reed College
Rhode Island School of Design
Sewanee College
University of Texas (Austin)
Wheaton College

Students delivered samples of Bhopal’s contaminated water to Dow Board members Arnold Allemang (Midland, MI), Jackie Barton (San Marino, CA), Anthony Carbone (Midland, MI), Willie Davis (Playa Del Rey, CA), Barbara Franklin (Washington, DC), Keith McKennon (Portland, OR), J. Pedro Reinhard (Midland, MI), James Ringler (Lake Forest, IL), Harold Shapiro (Princeton, NJ), William Stavropoulos (Midland, MI), and Paul Stern (Potomac, MD).

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1 Students for Bhopal, the student arm of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), is a national coalition of student groups dedicated to raising awareness about the disaster, advocating for the people of Bhopal, and increasing the pressure against Dow-Carbide to accept its moral and legal responsibilities in Bhopal. More information is available at www.studentsforbhopal.org and www.bhopal.net.

2 The Association for India’s Development (AID) is a voluntary non-profit organization committed to promoting sustainable, equitable and just development in India, by working with grassroots organizations and movements in India. More information is available at http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/aidaustin/bhopal/index.html

3 The Environmental Justice Program (EJP) of the Sierra Student Coalition (the student-run arm of the Sierra Club) is a national community of youth working for environmental justice. The EJP is devoted to advancing the principles of environmental justice in our society, and believes that all human beings deserve a healthy, sustainable, livable, and beautiful environment that provides security for our families and communities. More information is available at www.ssc.org/subdomains/departments/ej.

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United against Dow: Horgen, Copenhagen, London, Mumbai and Bhopal.

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The invisible war waged against us all

“The (chemical) industry has avoided any serious restrictions on its chemicals for nearly twenty years. During this time lapse, we have continued to learn more about the dark side of the chemical revolution. We have learned that today we all carry the chemical industry’s toxic products in our bodies. Every man, women and child in America has a “body burden” of chemicals that are linked to cancer, birth defects, asthma, learning disabilities and other diseases. We are all guinea pigs in an epic uncontrolled chemical experiment run by Dow, Monsanto, DuPont and other petrochemical giants.”

In an editorial written to coincide with the 19th anniversary of Bhopal, Gary Cohen of the Environmental Health Fund, Boston, talks about the wider assault on human health perpetrated by the chemical industry even in the aftermath of Bhopal. You can read the piece exclusively on bhopal.net.

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The chemical industry believes that good public relations can make this acceptable.

December 3: Nineteen years ago today, families in Bhopal were awakened in the middle of the night by terrible burning in their eyes and lungs. Within minutes, children and mothers and fathers staggered into the street, gasping for air and blinded by the chemicals that seared their eyes. As they ran in complete terror, someone yelled that the Union Carbide pesticides factory had exploded, spewing out poisonous gas throughout the city.

Soon thousands of people lay dead in the city’s main roads, with every truck, taxi and ox cart weighted down with injured and terrified refugees. No one in the emergency room at the city hospital knew what the toxic gases were or how to treat the thousands of patients that flooded into the hallways and filled the front door. By the morning, more than 5,000 people were dead, while a half million more were injured.

Bhopal has rightly been called the Hiroshima of the Chemical Industry. It not only tells the stark story of the human fall-out from a chemical factory explosion born of supreme negligence but offers up important lessons about the continuing failure of the chemical industry and government to address the security and public health threats posed by dangerous chemicals.

The day after the disaster, Union Carbide’s CEO Warren Anderson flew to India to assess the damage his company had visited upon its Indian neighbors. He was promptly met at the airport and arrested. After a few days he was released and allowed to return to the United States. Anderson has not returned to India since, even though there’s an outstanding warrant for his arrest and a pending criminal homicide case against him and other Carbide officials in the Bhopal courts. The Indian government has even issued extradition orders for Anderson, but the U.S. government has so far ignored the extradition request. This complete lack of respect for the law reinforces the image of the chemical industry as a renegade industry that is largely uncontrollable.

Nineteen years have passed, but today in Bhopal thousands of people remain sick from their chemical exposure, while more than 50,000 are disabled due to their injuries. The amount of compensation Union Carbide paid to the survivors has not been enough to cover basic medicines, let alone other costs associated with various disabilities and inability to work. The sad reality is that we continue to learn about chemicals by exposing large numbers of people to them and seeing what happens.

In this way, we have learned about dioxin contamination by poisoning American veterans and the entire Vietnamese population with Agent Orange. We have learned about asbestos by killing off thousands of workers to lung disease. And we have learned about the long term effects of methylisocyanate (MIC) by spewing it across an entire city in India. There are many other examples of this kind of uncontrolled chemical experimentation. In each case, the industry almost never pays the full cost of the massive damage it has caused.

The abandoned factory site remains essentially the same as the day that Carbide’s employees ran for their lives. Sacks of unused pesticides lay strewn in storerooms; toxic waste litters the grounds and continues to leak into the neighborhood well water supply. The buildings themselves are ghostly, a rotting monument to the excesses of the pesticide revolution in India and the lack of corporate responsibility for its failures.

Officials at Dow Chemical, the new owners of Union Carbide, claim they have nothing to do with the ongoing disaster in Bhopal, neither the pending criminal case, nor the environmental contamination nor the public health fall-out. Yet Dow has set aside $2 billion to address Carbide’s asbestos liabilities, another public health legacy of the former chemical giant.

The chemical industry has always viewed Bhopal purely as a public relations disaster, a powerful symbol that demonstrated the industry was a menace and a threat to people’s health and safety. In order to head off further regulation, the chemical manufacturers created a voluntary program called “Responsible Care” with the logo of “Don’t Trust Us, Track Us”. In this way, the industry has avoided any serious restrictions on its chemicals for nearly twenty years.

During this time lapse, we have continued to learn more about the dark side of the chemical revolution. We have learned that today we all carry the chemical industry’s toxic products in our bodies. Every man, women and child in America has a “body burden” of chemicals that are linked to cancer, birth defects, asthma, learning disabilities and other diseases. We are all guinea pigs in an epic uncontrolled chemical experiment run by Dow, Monsanto, DuPont and other petrochemical giants.

If we woke up one morning and learned that this chemical invasion by the work of foreign terrorists, the nation would be completely mobilized to defend our citizens from this chemical warfare threat. But because the perpetrators are some of President Bush’s most generous contributors and ardent allies, we are left defenseless as a nation against this chemical security threat.

Recently, it’s become even harder to track the chemical industry, since it has been working with the Bush Administration under the veil of homeland security to conceal information about the “worst case disaster” threats of its facilities and the health threat posed by its products. But the picture that is emerging is a frightening one.

According to federal government sources, there are 123 chemical facilities nationwide that could kill at least one million people if they accidentally exploded or were attacked by terrorists. Some of these chemical factories are located in major American cities and put as many as 8 million people’s lives at risk. Yet the chemical industry continues to resist any meaningful regulation that would require them to replace the most dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives. A recent “60 Minutes” expose vividly showed many of these facilities lack even the most basic security protection, yet the government is spending billions of our tax dollars looking for chemical terrorists overseas.

We don’t have to look in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction. They are right here, in our neighborhoods, in our food and in our bodies.

On this nineteenth anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, survivors in Bhopal will march and make speeches and demand their basic rights to be free of chemical poisons, to be compensated for their damages, and to hold the chemical industry responsible for the world’s worst industrial disaster.

Despite their ongoing victimization, people in Bhopal have not given up. Their protests are testimony to the triumph of memory over forgetting and the celebration of the human spirit over the rationalized tyranny of corporate profit margins and evasion of responsibility.

The Bhopal survivors are not only speaking for themselves, but for us as well. In the last two decades, Bhopal has come much closer to home. The chemical terror they experienced and the lack of care and respect they have received is a haunting reminder that we also live under a similar poison cloud.

Gary Cohen is the Executive Director of the Environmental Health Fund in Boston. He serves on the international advisory board of the Sambhavna Trust, which operates a free medical clinic for the survivors in Bhopal.

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36 years on, outraged students again unite against Dow

Reviving memories of the fierce Vietnam War protests at universities in the 1960’s, students at 20 colleges across the United States are once again organizing against Dow, this time united in their demand that Dow accept its moral and legal responsibilities in Bhopal. They’ve banded together to form Students for Bhopal, a national network that is planning campaigns against Dow until it accepts all the demands of the Bhopal survivors. “Students here are like students elsewhere,” said Janine Jacques, one of the student campaigners at Brown University. “When we heard about what was happening in Bhopal, we were outraged. We decided that we had to act.”

The student protests of 1967-8 afflict Dow’s reputation even now. Today’s students are also busy driving Dow’s expensively crafted image as an environmental steward and warm-hearted corporate citizen to the wall. Such as students at Brown, who aren’t buying it; they dressed up as the “Dow Grim Reaper” this past Halloween and set out to “kill” their fellow students on the college green. “We feel that Halloween is the perfect time to highlight the unholy alliance that Dow and Death seem to have made,” declared Mika Nagasaki, a sophomore at Brown. “Dow maximizes its profits by contributing to the deaths of thousands of people throughout the world, and Death is only too happy to collect these victims before their time. Dow’s legacy of contamination and death must come to an end; by refusing to take action in Bhopal, Dow is condemning thousands more to an untimely end.”

Students at other colleges were also making the connection between Dow and Death this past Halloween. Students at the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland–College Park, the University of California–Berkeley, and Wheaton also participated in the Halloween Day of Action. Over 30 colleges are expected to participate in the December 3rd Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime.

Students for Bhopal has been organizing a series of campaigns against Dow Chemical, many of which parallel the student campaigns that plagued Dow during the Vietnam War. During the late ’60s and early ’70s, thousands of students forced Dow off of their college campuses-sometimes violently-because of its production of Agent Orange and Napalm for the US military. Dow’s steadfast refusal to take any responsibility for Bhopal is leading many students to question whether the company’s behavior has ever changed. Many are deciding that they don’t want their Universities associated with Dow, financially or otherwise.

“Is it possible to ethically invest in a corporation that refuses to remediate the impacts of its own pollution, to the detriment of thousands of lives? I don’t think so,” said Clayton Perry, one of the Bhopal organizers at Occidental College in California. “Nor is it really fair that Dow donates millions of dollars every year to colleges and universities across the country, while refusing to spend a cent in Bhopal. We don’t want our colleges accepting Dow’s blood money.”

“Many students have never heard of Bhopal,” said Ryan Bodanyi, the Student Coordinator for ICJB. “But once they do they become outraged, and they want to become involved. It’s amazing how quickly the student campaign is spreading; if Dow continues to dawdle and delay I think that they’ll have a huge fight on their hands before too long.”

To find out more about Students for Bhopal, visit www.studentsforbhopal.org

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