|Posted by David Gordon|
A number of our partners on Sakhalin have launched efforts to get Exxon to re-route a pipeline around Piltun Lagoon and away from reindeer breeding grounds. Click here to read about our visit to the reindeer herders last fall.
In December, the reindeer herders joined together with environmental and indigenous groups to send a letter to Exxon and to Russian state agencies to ask for the pipeline to be rerouted. After all, there are strong biodiversity reasons for this: Piltun Lagoon is the source of the rich benthos that feeds critically endangered Western Gray Whales off the coast of Sakhalin and is habitat for rich fisheries that feed native peoples. Exxon’s on-shore construction has already impacted reindeer breeding grounds, and construction of a pipeline through the reindeer breeding grounds will likely doom this native tradition that is struggling to survive.
Exxon, though, has other ideas. Without informing leaders in the indigenous or environmental communities, Exxon secretly brought together many of the reindeer herders for a meeting. The herders were confused and asked where were the leaders and why weren’t they at the meeting? Exxon simply said the leaders couldn’t attend, even though these people had not been informed. The reindeer herders, under the influence of alcohol, signed a statement allowing Exxon to build the pipeline.
Exxon learned from the “divide and conquer” strategies used to subjugate indigenous cultures in the 19th century. Too bad they’re still using these tactics.
Thankfully, the herders themselves said that this meeting with Exxon was improper, and now even Exxon has agreed to a meeting that will bring all the stakeholders together. After all, this decision is not that difficult. All the reindeer herders want is a common-sense decision to re-route the pipeline so that it will avoid Piltun Lagoon and reindeer breeding grounds. Certainly Exxon, with its record-breaking profits, can see the wisdom in this?