Honest to goodness, I don’t know why we yawn at the word “economics” when there are stories like this. Beats the pants off any Britney Spears blah-blah-blah.
(for some of you this is old news. sorry – new to me. and read on; there may be some new details here).
Dec. 3, 1984, just past midnight. Bhopal, India.
Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, began leaking 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate (a chemical used in rubber). None of the six safety systems designed to contain such a leak were operational, allowing the gas to spread throughout the city of Bhopal. Worse, the plant had been built close to a dense population instead of the other side of town.
The gas cloud, composed mainly of materials more dense than the surrounding air, stayed close to the ground and spread outwards through the surrounding community. The initial effects of gas exposure were coughing, vomiting, severe eye irritation and a feeling of suffocation. People awoken by these symptoms fled away from the plant. Those who ran inhaled more than those who had a vehicle. Due to their height, children and other people of lower stature inhaled relatively higher concentrations. Many people were trampled trying to escape.
Thousands of people had succumbed to gas exposure by the morning hours. There were mass funerals and mass cremations (approx 8000) as well as some bodies being disposed of in the Narmada river. 170,000 people were treated at hospitals and temporary dispensaries. 2,000 buffaloes, goats, and other animals had to be collected and buried. Within a few days, leaves on trees went yellow and fell off. Supplies including food became scarce due to safety fears by the suppliers. Fishing was prohibited as well which caused further supply shortages. (source: bhopal.org)
In short: a freaking industrial disaster of biblical proportions.
Dec. 7, 1984
Indian police arrest CEO Warren Andersen, and release him on bail. He hightails it back to the good old USA.
Dec. 14, 1984
CEO Warren Anderson promises US Congress that it won’t happen again.
India passes the “Bhopal Gas Leak Act” and acts as the legal representative of the victims.
CEO Warren Andersen retires, and lays low.
Out-of-court settlement kinda/sorta reached – Union Carbide to pay $470 million in damages. I say kinda/sorta because while the Indian Gov’t was cool with this, the victims weren’t (keep reading) – it worked out to about $2200 per dead person. What do you think: if a US corporation had done this in the western world, would they get away with $2200 per dead person?
Bhopal police charge Andersen with manslaughter and order him to appear in court. He doesn’t, of course, so India starts exerting pressure on the USA to turn him over (or in formal parlance, “extradite”). Nothing really happens, but then, Greenpeace hunted him down.
Union Carbide offloads the plant by selling it to EverReady (yes, as in the batteries. Think of THAT next time you turn on your flashlight) and in …
Dow Chemical buys Union Carbide (now sans the plant) and claims they have no responsibility for what happened way back in 1984 when they didn’t even own Union Carbide.
BUT THE PEOPLE WILL SPEAK
and Dow has not found itself off the hook:
a fake dude (a precursor of the fake steve jobs?) got himself on BBC claiming to be a DOW spokesperson (brand hi-jacking, hello) and claimed full responsibility on Dow’s behalf for the disaster. He even announced a $12Billion plan for the victims! (vid is totally worth watching! Wish I had guts like fake dude!)
and then there’s the disconcerting website dowethics.com . It will take a while before you realize … hey, wait just.one.minute!
And there was this:
(yay, internet!)And finally …. there’s GOOD NEWS. On August 8, 2008, the prime minister pledged to meet the survivor’s demands. And DOW? Seems like they’re able to continue washing their hands of buying a lame-ass company, despite this. Same with CEO Andersen enjoying retirement in the Hamptons. As for you and me, well, we can buy Energizer batteries, xnay DOW -chemical based products like SaranWrap and Fantastik Cleaner, and donate directly to help.