Last Thursday Royal Dutch Shell announced record profits of £18.1 billion representing a 54% increase from last year's revenue. News of these recession busting profits was followed by a statements of intent to pursue a new aggressive growth strategy.
In these bleak economic times some may see this announcement as a gasp of growth for our failing economy. However Shell's plans to pursue a new aggressive growth strategy are sure to send shivers down the spines of environmentalists and people living in the communities where Shell operates.
Shell is a historic company. Sadly for the people of Nigeria and for our environment, their history is tied to the exploitation of both people and nature, focussed on the ruthless pursuit of huge profits. Thanks to the great work of Platform and Amnesty International there is now a growing dossier of evidence against Shell. Theirs is a culture of alleged corruption; a blatant disregard for human life and the environment which is endemic throughout the company.
Since 1960, Nigerian oil exports have generated wealth estimated to be valued at over $600 billion, yet poverty is rife in the Niger Delta and local communities are lumbered with the devastating fallout of irresponsible oil extraction led by Shell. Our government claims to be the greenest ever and recently pledged to crack down on predatory capitalism. Yet still they sit idle as the exploitation continues. It seems revenue in the treasuries coffers is all that matters.
Just last December Shell spilt a reported 44,000 gallons of oil off the coast of the Niger Delta with satellite images indicating the spill spread over 356 square miles. This was only the latest in a long line on environmental recklessness by Shell in the region. Last year The United National Environment Programme (UNEP) analysed the damage caused by oil pollution in Nigeria's Ogoniland. They estimated that it will cost $1 billion dollars to start the clean up process in Ogoni, and the full cost of cleaning oil spills in the Niger Delta is estimated to be 500 times higher.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as in 2006 independent environmental and oil experts visiting the Niger Delta put the figure for oil spilt both onshore and offshore, at nine to 13 million barrels of oil over the past 50 years. Further to this, the 2009 Friends of the Earth Europe report found that Shell is the world's most carbon intensive oil company.
It's depressing to read but it isn't inevitable. In the coming week, environmental activists across the UK will 'Occupy Oil', standing up to oil companies whose pursuit of profit at any cost jeopardised the livelihoods of the poorest people and the environment for future generations. At Climate Rush we believe Shell has become the living embodiment of environmental hell for people living in the communities in which they operate. Throughout this week we will be using Twitter to remind Shell of the Hell they are creating around the world, we urge you to join us in tweeting @shell our "Shell Hell Facts" using the hashtag #occupyoil
If politicians are looking to turn rhetoric into action and crack down on irresponsible capitalism then in Shell we have found a corporation ripe to be held to account. It's time Shell were told to clean up their act, because failure to do so to do so will only lead to more environmental and humanitarian disasters. We need a transition now to a low carbon economy, so allowing Shell to create climate hell is something we as a planet can ill afford.
Follow Damien Clarkson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/damienclarkson