Saturday, 4 December 2004
Global day of action for Bhopal
Today I attended this film showing and discussion in San Francisco as part of the global day of action for Bhopal on the 20th anniversary of the pesticide-factory explosion that released a cloud of poisonous gases over the city of Bhopal, India, killing some ten thousand or more people, injuring hundreds of thousands, and causing genetic and other damage that will continue to manifest itself for generations in the descendants of those exposed.
Union Carbide (now part of Dow Chemical) first called it an "accident" (while downplaying the danger of the toxins, which have never been cleaned up) and then "sabotage" (despite a complete lack of evidence of sabotage, or any suspects). Indian criminal prosecutors called it "culpable homicide" (criminal negligence), but the accused, Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson, jumped bail and fled back to the USA, where he lives to this day, on his Dow/Union Carbide pension, as a fugitive from the Interpol arrest warrant and extradition request.
Five years after the disaster in Bhopal, I rode out of New Delhi on the electrified Bhopal express train. We got off at Agra, and didn't continue to Bhopal, but I couldn't help thinking then, as I couldn't help thinking later when I worked for three years in a chemical warehouse on the shore of San Francisco Bay, about how easily the same thing could have happened here as in Bhopal, and how differently it would have been dealt with.
It's sometimes painful, but it's always important to remember that conditions of life for the majority of the world's people who live on less than three U.S. dollars a day are just the same every day (or worse, since tourists stay away in the worst of times) as they are at those time when the lives of First World guests intersect with the lives of Third and Fourth World hosts.
We visit other places, and then we come home. But we bring home memories, if nothing else. And one of the best things about travel is the lasting sense of connection it gives us with the places we visit. For me, that's happened especially with Kashmir , but it can happen anywhere, to anyone. Even those who least expect to be moved by their travels can find their memories of travel a permanent presence and transforming influence on the rest of their lives.Link | Posted by Edward on Saturday, 4 December 2004, 18:02 ( 6:02 PM)