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The New York Times and media around the world are reporting on the court decision ordering Chevron to pay $9 billion in damages for polluting remote areas of Ecuadorean jungle.  The decision was announced on Monday by Judge Nicolás Zambrano in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.

Pablo Fajardo

ELAW partner Pablo Fajardo, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, has fought a long, hard battle to win this victory against oil giant Chevron.  I am thrilled that ELAW has been able to help Pablo with legal and scientific support.  Pablo traveled to Eugene for an ELAW Fellowship in 2009.  Over his three months in Eugene, he was able to gain valuable skills and all of us at ELAW in Eugene, Oregon, enjoyed working with Pablo.  He has boundless courage and speaks truth to power.

When Pablo announced his victory on the ELAW network, people all over the world joined in the celebration.  Through the ELAW network, Pablo has received heartfelt congratulations from colleagues in more than 20 countries.  His victory is inspiring ELAW advocates all over the world, at the same time ELAW advocates are rallying in solidarity with Pablo.

This court decision from Ecuador is a huge step forward, but the struggle for justice is far from over.  As Pablo continues onward and upward, the ELAW network will be supporting him every step of the way.

Bern Johnson
Executive Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

at the  Bijou Art Cinemas
492 East 13th, Eugene

CRUDE: The Real Price of Oil is coming to Eugene!  This award-winning documentary features ELAW Partner and Goldman Prize winner Pablo Fajardo, and his community’s fight to obtain justice from ChevronTexaco for the devastation of the Ecuadorian Amazon.  We recommend that you see it. It will be playing at The Bijou starting this Friday (February 19.) CRUDE will show at 5:10 p.m. daily and a Saturday matinee at 2:45 p.m. Check the website to confirm show times (as they may change.)

CRUDE has won more than 20 major awards including the International Green Film Award – Cinema for Peace; Best Documentary Film – Mexico International Film Festival; and the Gold Kahuna Award – Honolulu Film Festival.

You won’t want to miss this amazing movie about the valuable work that ELAW partners in Ecuador are doing.  Read the review in the Eugene Weekly.

Also —  Pablo’s co-counsel, Steven Donziger, will be a keynote speaker at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference – February 25th at 7:00 p.m. in the EMU Ballroom.  More information at

“Steven Donziger knew pursuing a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against Chevron-Texaco wouldn’t be easy. A Harvard Law grad and former Washington, D.C., public defender, Donziger is the lead U.S. lawyer for 30,000 Ecuadoreans who claim oil drilling by Texaco (now owned by Chevron) polluted portions of the country’s Amazon Basin, contaminating the soil and water sources where they live.”   The American Lawyer Sept. 2009

“As the founder of his law firm in New York, Donziger & Associates, Steven has doggedly pursued Texaco (now Chevron) in courts both in New York and in Ecuador for almost two decades. He is now assisting on the $27 Billion lawsuit against the company for massive oil contamination in the Amazon rain forest of Ecuador. Thirty thousand people are suing over this legacy of toxic pollution that has damaged the ecosystem and so many human lives.” Dreamers & Doers, September 2009

crude the movieCRUDE: The Real Price of Oil opened in New York.  This film documents the fight by ELAW partner Pablo Fajardo and others to remediate the damage done to their community members and the environment in northern Ecuador.  CRUDE shows the damage done by ChevronTexaco over the last 30+ years and the community’s efforts to receive justice.

The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott had this to say:

“Too many filmmakers seem to think that a noble cause, a good heart and a digital video camera are all that is required for an effective documentary. Luckily, Mr. Berlinger has both a strong narrative instinct and a keen eye for incongruous, evocative and powerful images.”  Read the entire review here.

CRUDE opens in other cities around the country over the next few weeks.  The schedule is on the film’s website:

I always love stories that start with Once Upon A Time.

So, I’m going to start this one that way…

Once upon a time, there was a boy who lived in northeastern Ecuador. His name was Pablo Fajardo. He cherished his community and the beauty of the surrounding Amazon rainforest. But when he saw his neighbors’ livestock dying as the result of falling into petroleum pits and saw nearby streams oozing with oily sludge, he knew  something was wrong, and he vowed to do something about it.

He was only 16.Pablo Weekly cover

He became a leader of his community and begged the government to act to clean up the mess and help his neighbors who were getting sick from drinking and bathing in the polluted waters.  Officials told him that the only way to get results was to hire a lawyer.  He looked around but did not find one lawyer who could or would help.

So he looked in the mirror.  And then, as soon as he could, he went to law school.

Twenty years later, Pablo is still fighting to protect communities from devastation caused by oil extraction in Ecuador that began before he was born.

The current Eugene Weekly has Pablo on the cover, and reporter Camilla Mortensen does a fabulous job of telling his story and detailing the controversy surrounding the destruction of the Ecuadorean Amazon.  Read it here.

Pablo is going to tell some of the story and show documentary footage at a fundraising event for ELAW on August 27th at the Lord Leebrick Theater in Eugene.  More details on the ELAW website.  We hope you will come to hear more about Pablo’s world and what can be done to make it right so that his community can live (you saw this coming, right?) happily ever after.

Rita Radostitz

Director of Philanthropy

crude_reflectionsThis  summer, I have the privilege of sharing my office with ELAW partner Pablo Fajardo who is in Eugene to attend the American English Institute and consult with ELAW staff.  The other day,  Pablo showed me his copy of the book Crude Reflections — an amazing photographic essay documenting the people behind the lawsuit that he is leading against ChevronTexaco on behalf of 30,000 indigenous people in Ecuador.  I was struck not only by the environmental devastation but also by the cancer and other illnesses among the people living in the area.

The people’s suffering is horrifying.  The photographs in this book are difficult to look at — but the captions are even worse:  they chronicle case upon case of stomach cancer, ovarian and uterine cancer, and mis-formed limbs  — especially noticeable is the impact on the women and children.

I asked Pablo, Why?

He pointed to a photograph of a group of women and girls standing in the water, washing their clothes.  “They stand for hours, every day in that water” he said.  “Then, the cancer.”

(c) Lou Dematteis

Luz Maria Marin holds the head of her husband Angel Toala one day before he died of stomach cancer in his home in Shushufindi. (c) Lou Dematteis

The lawsuit is ongoing in Ecuadorean courts.  But ChevronTexaco says that even if it loses in Ecuador, it will turn to U.S. courts to avoid paying damages to people in Ecuador.

Pablo told me that his children are interested in becoming lawyers like him.  Why?  “So that they can be there to enforce the judgment.”  That’s how long, he says,  it might take for any judgment to be enforced.

“Ye gads” I thought — how long will these Ecuadorian people have to wait for justice?  And how many more women will die of uterine cancer, how many more children will be born with birth defects, how many more fathers won’t live to see their children grow up before the toxic contamination is cleaned up?  It is an outrage.

Sitting next to this amazing man (whose back story is fascinating — I can’t do it justice here, but you can read more about him in Vanity Fair) for the summer, I am again grateful that there are people like him who dedicate their lives to protecting their communities from environmental disasters.

We hope that the people of the Ecuadorean Amazon will soon get the justice they deserve, and the land will be cleaned up before more generations suffer the consequences of the toxic contamination.

by Rita Radostitz

Pablo Fajardo  photo by John Antonellism

Pablo Fajardo photo by John Antonelli

ELAW partner Pablo Fajardo is a fearless fighter who is working with the people of  Ecuador to protect the Amazon rain forest.

NPR featured Pablo in a story on Morning Edition:

The plaintiffs say Texaco, in 18 years of full-scale production, also dumped wastewater into rivers and that pipeline breaks spilled 17 million gallons of oil.

Pablo Fajardo, a 36-year-old lawyer, leads the plaintiffs’ team. He grew up poor in the area; this is his first legal case.

Fajardo says his side has proved there was damage, that Chevron was responsible and that the company should pay.

You can listen to the whole story here: NPR story about Pablo Fajardo or read about it on their website.

UPDATE:   60 Minutes will air “Amazon Crude” on Sunday May 3, 2009 — featuring the legal case to protect communities in the Amazon from polluting oil companies.  We’ll try to post the video when it becomes available.

witnessorgCelebrate Earth Day by watching the video that our friends Kelly Matheson and Priscila Néri at created with the help of many ELAW partners during the 2009 ELAW Annual Meeting and the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon. It is fabulous! Human Rights = Environmental Rights Human Rights = Environmental Rights

Let us know what you think!


Our friends Kelly Matheson and Priscila Néri over at are deep into editing the video they shot at the ELAW Annual Meeting and the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference last month.  Priscila posted a wonderful blog about the eye-opening experience of meeting so many amazing environmental activists.  She articulates how her interviews of  ELAW partners (such as Pablo Fajardo and Theivanai Amarthalingam) helped her better understand the connection between human rights and environmental rights.

Kelly commented on the blog entry:

“I have been an environmentalist for 22 years now. I have called myself a human rights defender for 22 years too. But until last the two conferences I attended with Priscila Néri, the author of the above post, I constantly found it difficult to articulate why and how I could be both and why I felt the discipline of human rights could not be separated from the environment. I believe Priscila’s blog articulates it well and that interview footage we will be uploading in celebration of Earth Day will articulate even further and in an increasingly convincing way, why environmental rights and human rights are one in the same.”

Be sure to check out The Hub on the website — and look for more about ELAW on Earth Day!

ELAW partners summit Mt. Pisgah

ELAW partners summit Mt. Pisgah

It’s no Mt. Everest, but summiting Eugene’s Mt. Pisgah (elev. 1,531 feet) with lawyers from 25 countries poses its own challenges. Some forgot to pack hiking boots, but did fine with shoes better suited to the courtroom.

The field trip is a favorite part of ELAW annual meetings and this year’s trip was enjoyed by all.

Neil Bjorkland describes Wetlands to wet ELAW partners

Neil Bjorkland describes Wetlands to wet ELAW partners

Our day started with a tour of the West Eugene wetlands with Neil Bjorklund. the city’s Parks and Open Space Planning Manager. As if on cue, it started pouring rain when we reached the overlook. As geese landed and birds flitted through the grasses, Neil shared the interesting story of Eugene’s nationally-recognized efforts to protect 3,000 acres of wetlands, including the restoration of hundreds of acres that had been previously converted into a grass seed farm.

ELAW’s partners got a break from the conference table yet continued collaborating — this time under umbrellas.
Paris Jackson at KEZI-TV braved the rain and filed the following report:

After lunch at Fifth Street Market, we continued on to Buford Park Arboretum and Mt. Pisgah. Led by Tom LoCascio, Mt. Pisgah Site Manager, most of the group fanned out along the trail to the top and enjoyed sweeping views over Eugene and the Cascade foothills as the clouds temporarily lifted. Fernando Dougnac, perhaps South America’s most famous environmental attorney, was the last to reach the top.

Someone teasingly shouted, “Fernando, great to see you, but it’s time to head back down!”

Fernando & Pablo solve the world's environmental problems on the descent.

Fernando & Pablo solve the world's environmental problems.

Compared to the climb, the descent was easy. Fernando brought up the rear with 2008 Goldman Prize winner Pablo Fajardo from Ecuador. He learned about Pablo’s work representing indigenous communities and settlers in the Amazon who are suffering from 30 years of pollution from multinational oil operations. Fernando has been successful challenging multinational logging operations in Chile, so they had much to share.

The rain came down again as the group retreated to the White Oak Pavilion where Bruce Newhouse, botanist with Salix Associates showed slides of Mt. Pisgah’s impressive birds, butterflies and native plants.

Maggie Keenan
ELAW Communications Director

ELAW has the privilege of working with amazing people all over the world who take on corporations and governments to secure environmental justice for their communities. Many of our partners are fighting classic “David v. Goliath” battles — they are taking on the giants.

Pablo Fajardo  photo by John Antonellism

Pablo Fajardo --- photo by John Antonelli

ELAW partner Pablo Fajardo is a David among Davids. He has taken on one of the largest corporations in the world – and he is winning. Of course, he is not doing it alone, but Pablo’s interminable will and work ethic has turned a case brought by a group of indigenous people in Ecuador into one of the most watched environmental cases in the world. (The lawsuit seeks to hold Texaco/Chevron accountable for oil extraction operations that destroyed portions of the Ecuadorian rain forest and created myriad health problems for the people living in the area.)

Pablo explained his philosophy to a Vanity Fair writer:
One of the problems with modern society is that it places more importance on things that have a price than on things that have a value. Breathing clean air, for instance, or having clean water in the rivers, or having legal rights—these are things that don’t have a price but have a huge value. Oil does have a price, but its value is much less.” (read the whole Vanity Fair profile here. )

For his work, Pablo won the prestigious environmental Goldman Prize in 2008. He will travel to Eugene for the 2009 ELAW Annual Meeting. He will also give a keynote address at the 27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon.

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