PUBLIC RELATIONS VALUE

Seeing the economic opportunity in Siberian earth, Texas-based oil company Amoco quickly established an office in Nadym, Yamal following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Portraying the Yamal Region as devastated by decades of pollution by Soviet industries, a 1994 New York Times article titled “In the Defiled Russian Arctic, Hope Is a U.S. Oil Company”, the publication portrayed the Amoco vice-president Garry F. Howe as a kind of saviour descended upon an old world, bringing faith in new industry and economic prosperity to come through ecologically sensitive American drilling of the Yamal. “But Amoco has seen what happened to other companies when the needs of the local people are ignored. Texaco, for example, was stymied with its oil exploration in Ecuador when Indians were outraged about the lack of consultation. And company officials know the public relations value of producing oil in an environmentally safe way.” (The New York Times, Nov. 27, 1994). Attracting American investment in Siberian ‘natural resources’ became a priority for Russian business following the dissolution of the USSR and the conversion towards capitalist market economy, seeing the profitable manipulations of proprietary and land usage regulations, continent-hopping by bloated oil industries, and the ruthlessness of western investors and the World Bank that made it all possible. Even reports that spoke sympathetically about colonial exploitation of lands in Siberian regions – such as Osherenko’s study on the impact of changing property rights on the Nenets of Yamal Peninsula – would orient documentation in a way that would appear to support the preservation of Indigenous cultural and land rights, and self-governance, while somehow still promoting American investment and development of oil and gas fields: “according substantial property and even political rights to indigenous peoples need not constitute a barrier to larger national agendas for development of oil and gas resources” […] “The World Bank aims to enable the Russian oil and gas industry to improve oil recovery, reduce spills, repair broken pipelines, and reduce waste through improved environmental technology.” (Osherenko 1995: 2, 44).

* Osherenko, G. Indigenous political and property rights and economic/environmental reform in Northwestern Siberia. Post-Soviet Geography. 1995.

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To Justify Land /6 Onwards, Ecofiscal Commissions!

“Golconda”, René Magritte (1953), painting usually housed in Texas.

To Justify Land /6: Onwards, Ecofiscal Commissions! is a project of assemblage and republication without altering the splinters of original text, creating an emergent narrative. The act of re-composing information, or found text, changes the legible context and the experience of reading, assimilating and forgetting information. Journalistic materials and press releases are interpreted outside of their chronological documentation or perceived span of relevance – when the spectacle is discarded and forgotten, and becomes history. This mimics both the parasitic character of most mainstream news sources, as well as spam sites that copy and re-post excerpts or articles in their entirety elsewhere (a venture through the looking glass). By collaging the found fragments, the project also reflects the prominence of particular sources which are most accessible (or simply reflect certain algorithmic affinities and the speed of their discovery), or which reflect the sources that hold the most interest in reporting these events (and thus tend to influence public perception and policy). As with the earlier, related project A Draft for Asinabka, this section of To Justify Land looks at the rhetoric that is used to represent to the public the interests of multinational corporate ‘entities’, the competency of corporate leadership, and the rhizomatic accumulation that leads towards prosperity.

Continue reading “To Justify Land /6 Onwards, Ecofiscal Commissions!”