Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wood’s Private Life Questioned, But His Public Choices Raise Real Questions

For the first time in Tiger Woods' career his private life is being closely scrutinized and his unwillingness to discuss what happened in his home criticized. Much ink has been used to debate what impact this scandal is having on his corporate partners, specifically Chevron, who entered into a five-year contract with the Tiger Woods' Foundation last year and had expected him to attend its golf tournament this week.

But, greater attention should be paid to Tiger's willingness enter into a relationship with Chevron itself, and the impact its had with the oil giant has had on the countries and people suffering from Chevron's abuse of the environment and human life across the globe.

This moment of media chaos may be the perfect time for Woods to reassess his relationship with this particular multinational for about 18 billion good reasons. That's the number of gallons of toxic waste that Texaco, now Chevron, intentionally dumped into the Ecuadorian rainforest from 1964 to 1990, contaminating the food and water supplies of the indigenous groups and farmer communities living there. Texaco built over 900 gigantic, unlined oil pits to store toxic waste permanently. The pits continue to seep into the groundwater and leech into the rivers and streams used by the 200,000 people living in the region.

This humanitarian crisis created by Woods' partner decimated the pristine rainforest in the Ecuadorian Amazon, one of the most bio diverse regions on earth and continues to contaminate to this day.

Kerry Kennedy, human rights activist and daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, recently visited the area and called it "Chevron's Chernobyl." [See]

Experts estimate over 1,000 people have died from cancer, and thousands more suffer from respiratory illnesses, skin disease and other medical problems. Women living near the oil sites are 2.5 times as likely to have spontaneous abortions than women in other parts of Ecuador and incidents of childhood leukemia are three times higher than the national average. Children are born with deformities and, upon bathing in the contaminated water, develop painful skin rashes over their entire bodies.

Yet Chevron refuses to take responsibility for the deliberate contamination of the region designed to maximize profit at the time of its operation.

Chevron has a long history of human rights abuse across the globe and has shown no remorse for the Toxic legacy it inherited in Ecuador. EarthRights International has called on Woods to no longer partner with Chevron as a result of the company's criminal environmental practices and human rights abuses abroad. [See]

Looks like Tiger's relationship with Chevron may actually be the most harmful one for the mega-athlete's reputation. At a time when Tiger might need to do a bit of rehab on his public image, he should be cutting ties with an oil-giant that is embroiled in a rising tide of human rights problems around the globe. If Chevron insists on continuing to do business in a way that violates the environmental integrity of the communities in which it operates around the world, than Tiger should insist that his foundation disassociate itself with the oil company in every way.