My Suspicious yet Informative Interviews!

Hello! My name is Brittany Dickey, I am a senior at SMU, and this summer I am in London studying how human rights campaigns use the Olympics as a platform to raise awareness. I am particularly studying Green Wash Gold Campaign 2012. This organization is targeting BP, Dow, and Rio Tino, 3 sponsors of the Olympics that have serious human rights abuses. Last week I interviewed Colin Toogood and Jess Worth. The interviews were about an hour each and were very informative. The biggest thing I noticed was how suspicious Toogood and Worth were initially. Toogood informed me that Dow hired spies that follow him and other employees around, sift through their rubbish, and hack into their computers. When I asked if he was leery of doing an interview with a student from a different country, he said that Dow would not normally send someone like me, a Black woman from America. He did mention that the company could be “doubling back” and sent me to throw him off!

Bhopal Medical Appeal is Dow’s biggest threat as the campaign has damage the social license of the company. The BMA’s goal is to attack the company’s PR and as a result affect Dow’s bottom line. He said, “what we are trying to do is influence the media in a way that affects Dow.” The theory is that the more Dow loses money, eventually the company will rationalize that it is more cost efficient to fix the problems in Bhopal India. Apparently this is working as a Homes report ranked Dow as the 5th worst PR disaster. Toogood made clear that BMA is not just attacking Dow for the hell of it. BMA wants the people in Bhopal India to receive help and for the toxic waste that was dumped to be cleaned up. I asked Toogood about the arguments that Dow was not responsible for the oil disaster in Bhopal India because this happened before the company bought the Union Carbide Company. Additionally some argue that the UCC already paid a settlement for the oil leak. He explained that a civil settlement happened years ago but now criminal charges are being filed for culpable homicide in addition to a curative settlement that has been filed. The curative petition could range from 1 to 8 billion dollars. Toogood and I talked about how Dow has taken responsibility for UCC’s lawsuits in America but not India. Toogood said that because Dow, “is an American company there is more pressure in their native country.” There just is not any accountability for the horrendous occurrences in Bhopal.

Another big question I had was the campaigners view on the role of the Olympics in ensuring that companies with human rights abuses be restricted from sponsoring the event and increasing profit. Toogood agreed that the Olympics could persuade companies to repair past human rights abuses and uphold companies that have been pioneers in the human rights movement. However he said it wouldn’t do any good attacking the Olympics because the audience BMA targets are in support of the Games. There is currently a court case in New York City against Dow about the toxic dumping the company did in India that is still causing illness and affecting the citizens who live there. If this case is in favor of the citizens, it will set a precedent that there is an issue outside of the oil leak in the 80’s. Going into the interviews my big thought was: most people could care less about human rights abuses. The reality is that people tend to be selfish and oblivious. When I asked Toogood about whether BMA could raise social awareness he responded, “people don’t give a damn, we know that.” The overall goal of the BMA is to influence Dow by aiming for the company’s wallet.

The UK Tar Sands Network has different goals in mind. Worth made clear that she personally wanted BP “to shut down.” She said that the stock holders would save more money selling and closing than watching the company plummet. The UK Tar Sands Network is targeting the political arena rather than society at large. People in the political arena have the power to actually make a difference. In addition Worth said, “we are saying to the Olympics ‘you should not have picked these companies’.” She hopes that the Olympic committee will think harder about who they allow to sponsor the event. Worth believes that the Olympics, “is so lucrative that if the Olympics set stringent rules maybe some companies will clean up their act.” Also companies that are more aware of human rights can be sponsors and that is the overall goal. BP has extracted 20% of the world’s natural resources and has plans to continue to extract more oil for the UK Tar Sands. Although their extractions has been said to pollute the water of indigenous people in Canada, no research has been done to confirm this. People have complained of becoming ill and have protested their extraction in the UK. The most interesting thing I learned from this interview is that protestors in London are being arrested for no reason and restricted from protesting. According to Worth, the protestors are being arrested for peaceful protest and taking photos of the Olympics grounds. I would love to interview a few protestors and get their prospective.

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About Brittany Dickey

My name is Brittany Dickey. I am a senior at Southern Methodist University. I am recieving my bachelor's degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Human Rights. This summer I am researching how organizations use the 2012 Olympics to raise awareness about human rights abuses.
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