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What do you get when you mix Amazon natives, Chevron, and Sharon Stone?!

In a world where llamas are caught in a police chase, Sarah Palin actually gives a coherent speech, and John Travolta acts like… well, John Travolta, I find very few things peculiar. However, a recent lawsuit involving Amazon natives, an anti-Chevron event, and Sharon Stone has surpassed even my expectations of weirdness.

Basically, it all started in the 1960s when the oil company Texaco started drilling in a small South American town in Ecuador. The town, located in an eco-diverse part of the Amazon, sustained a great deal of damage and pollution. Thirty years after Texaco shut down its operations, the residents sued Texaco and won a $9.5 billion dollar judgment.

Since the judgment, no money has been awarded to the residents, and Texaco has been acquired by Chevron. Chevron denies any liability, and in March of last year, a New York federal judge blocked the Ecuadorean decision, citing the ruling relied on doctored evidence and bribery. This relieved Chevron from paying any sort of monetary compensation.

Now things get weird. Over the past few years, the Ecuadorian government has been funding anti-Chevron appearances and global campaigns against Chevron, demanding the company pay billions to restore polluted regions. The government hired public relations firm, MCSquared for $6.4 million to conduct the campaigns in 2013 and 2014. As part of the campaign, MCSquared hired Sharon Stone (yes, this Sharon Stone) to come to Ecuador and appear at anti-Chevron events. (Apparently, she has some sort of environmental credibility I never knew.) Yet, she backed out of her scheduled appearances after receiving payment.

MCSquared is not pleased with Stone’s last minute cancelation. According to the PR firm, Stone, along with her talent agency, American Program Bureau, was paid $275,000 for the appearances. In addition, MCSquared claims it spent an extra $77,420 to meet all of Stone’s demands, including “first-class airfare tickets and luxury hotel suites for herself and her three companions.” The lawsuit is seeking to recover the $352,000 spent on Stone, plus legal fees and other expenses.

It’s understandable why MCSquared is peeved at Sharon Stone and wants its money back; it paid a lot for a service it didn’t receive. However, I would like to point out one major dilemma with this whole debacle: why isn’t all of this money going towards the victims of pollution who were at the center of this controversy to begin with? Obviously, the Ecuadorian government wants those responsible to pay, but is it really necessary for it to spend millions of dollars on PR firms, events, appearances, and unrelated celebrity trips? $6.4 million is only a fraction of the $9.5 billion, but that could still make a tiny dent in the restoration of the polluted regions, instead of frivolous flights for a Hollywood diva.

Plus, this isn’t the first time a random actress was hired to speak out against Chevron. Last year Mia Farrow was paid $188,000 to travel to Ecuador and speak against the oil giant. I find it hard to believe anyone recognized Mia Farrow, or cared about her paid opinions about Chevron.

In this unusual story with lawsuits, celebrities, anti-oil campaigns, and government funding, one thing is clear: the victims are still left out in the dust. It’s necessary that we pay mind to those truly suffering at the hands of fossil fuels, and work to assist them. While we might not have millions, or thousands of dollars, doing our part to reduce fossil fuel use can make an impact. In the meantime, we can use this crazy state of affairs as motivation to help those in need, and journalists looking for really odd entertainment stories!

 

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