Watch the special expanded series finale online now.
My colleague, David Spielfogel, and I have the great opportunity to work with The Philanthropist to connect the community to organizations who are doing important, effective work in these countries and on the issues that are raised in each episode. Given each show is based on actual issues in these places, supporting these organizations is critically important, and we're grateful to the show for raising the visibility of the topics. And it's a wonderful chance to introduce viewers to small organizations that you may not come across, but who are incredibly effective and need our support greatly.
The Haiti episode is especially near and dear to my heart: I fell in love with Latin America and the Caribbean growing up visiting the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and later working with nearly all of the governments of the Hemisphere while working at the U.S. Department of Energy in the 1990s. It was then that I was introduced to Haiti's incredible poverty and lack of access to modern energy services. As a result, Haitians rely on charcoal for cooking; they cut down trees and create charcoal, and use it themselves and sell it to others. Over 98% of Haiti's forests are gone. You can clearly see the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic -- the two countries who share this gorgeous island of Hispanola -- from the air. Now, when rains come, they often bring disaster. The trees are gone and don't hold the soils back, leading to catastrophic floods. When tropical storm Jeanne hit in 2004, more than 2,000 Haitians were killed by flooding.
Yet there are great groups who are working to bring energy to Haiti. Haiti has no indigenous oil, gas, or coal resources, so imported oil and diesel fuels for electricity are incredibly expensive in a place that can least afford it. Solar and wind have great potential there, and solar is especially good where there are not already power lines -- it can be distributed home by home. Yet Haiti's political instability means that businesses are not inclined to operate there for risk of non-payment, corruption, and other unknowns. In some other Caribbean countries, including the Dominican Republic, renewable energy companies are setting up businesses, but this is very difficult in Haiti, so the groups working on Haiti's energy challenges rely on grants, contributions from foundations and from each of us.
In this episode we learn about the food crisis, an actual crisis occurred in Haiti in the spring of last year. Globally, we are seeing rising food prices as demand grows with our population growth, and as people eat more and more meat which requires huge amounts of corn and soy and other feed crops as well as water and energy to grow. So livestock is competing with people for these feed crops -- the poorest rely on grains and non-meat diets.
As described in the New York Times:
Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.
As demand for productive land grows, prices do too; there are fantastic organizations who are working on low-tech, low-cost agricultural practices that improve soil quality and yields, without the costs of traditional fertilizer. Another exciting solution is that of "biochar" which is actually planting specially fired charcoal -- it helps retain water in soil, provides nutrients, and helps increase yields. Finally, some are finding great results from certain trees that when planted help hold the nutrient nitrogen in the soil, to restore and increase fertility.
There are so many who are creatively developing solutions, testing them, and proving them. We hope you'll check out the groups doing this great work, and take action. Please use the comment section to share your experiences. Enjoy!
Certain episodes of "The Philanthropist" end with a question mark. Others end with an exclamation point. Despite the best efforts of Teddy Rist, this week's episode "Kashmir" ends with an ellipsis. And Teddy Rist -- a man of searing question marks and thunderous exclamation points -- hates an ellipsis...
The war being waged by the superpower governments of India and Pakistan in the territory of Kashmir is not a story that attracts much political or media attention. The world overlooks the circumstances facing the largely powerless citizens of Kashmir and the fact that their proud nation is being used as a battleground by their powerful neighbors. The Kashmiri people cannot travel or trade freely within their own nation, due to the questionably legal, inarguably injust occupation by their neighboring superpowers. Kashmiris watch helplessly and duck bullets fired haphazardly by the tens of thousands of warring Pakistani and Indian troops facing one another along the "Line of Control" that divides Kashmir in two - and the United Nations Security Council has been unable to stop the carnage that has claimed tens of thousands of Kashmiri lives since the Line of Control was drawn.
Teddy Rist, a man who wages his own war along his own line of control, sees opportunity amidst the chaos and lost paradise that is present-day Kashmir. Our hero leaps into a fearless (reckless?) pursuit of a simple business deal to create some small but significant change in Kashmir. Teddy sets a simple goal for himself: deliver water across the Line of Control to the impoverished Kashmiris who are denied a basic, sustainable existence due to brutal political stances by India and Pakistan. Teddy's plan fails. And, as happens with our hero, Teddy goes off the deep end and winds up trapped amidst the wolves. Back at Maidstone-Rist, word arrives that Teddy Rist is missing in the deadly mountains of Kashmir. Has Teddy's pursuit of a climax -- an exclamation point -- cost him everthing?
Are the nations of India and Pakistan willing to stand down from the war they have waged for decades in the land of the neighboring nation of Kashmir? Will the citizens of Kashmir ever gain control of their destiny as a nation, and escape the cycle of subjugation, poverty, and powerlesness that they've faced since Pakistan and India divided their ancient nation with the Line of Control?
Thanks to all of you who have invested your time watching our far-reaching show. From the alleys of Kosovo to the distant villages of Burma to the unsettling nocturne of San Diego, we've tried to provide you with a mix of compelling action and genuine substance, tied together by our brilliant lead James Purefoy in his performance as Teddy Rist. We hope this week's episode furthers your connection to our story, and introduces the world to the unending, needless war plaguing Kashmir, the ancient land of poets and kings...
In this week's episode we see Teddy's love of women in a different light when we meet up with Rhada, who is very happily married, a wonderful caring mother as well as being the high-powered owner of a telecom company who is also passionate about her homeland of Kashmir. Rhada and Teddy first met at university in the USA and they have kept their friendship close during the intervening years. Teddy admires her drive, guts warmth and passion and... and... you will have to watch the show to see what happens.
Kashmir has a very rich history -- Alexander the Great and his army matched through its valleys and mountains. It's one of the northern states of India and is surrounded by Pakistan, Tibet and China. Traditional boarders have changed; modern Pakistan came into being in 1947 and Kashmir has some of its territory administered by Pakistan and the rest is controlled by India. My stepfather once swam in one of its many rivers and said it was paradise and it is the precious source of so much flowing water - with main rivers streaming into Pakistan and India, its been said "a decades-old competition for water complicates the already-bitter relationship between India and her neighbours." There are also parts of Kashmir that are not ideal to travel in and I have looked at the British Foreign Office reports, it seems that kidnapping is on the up.
Casting -- All the episodes were challenging to cast as you can imagine -- a different country every episode, with a director and producers in different lands and different time zones. I like challenges and those of you who have followed Teddy's adventures will know the scope from Burma, Nigeria, Paris, and Kosovo to Kashmir, it has been a global search to find the right actors for the roles. I was lucky to have Andy Wilson the director on "Kashmir" in my office for some auditions and it was magical to find that one of our cast (Renu Senta) actually came from Kashmir so his role is very much from the heart. I am not the only casting director on the show and I do miss the calls from the wonderful Jeannie Bacharach, who was holding the fort in Los Angeles. I know that the phone will ring one of these days and Jeannie and I will laugh and catch up like all good friends and that in turn reminds me of Teddy and Rhada.
Throughout "The Philanthropist," there have always been two sides to Teddy Rist: the quick-witted, mischievous playboy has stood opposite the intensely focused, empathetic do-gooder. As we prepared to write episode six, Brant Englestein and I asked the question: what if there actually were a second Teddy Rist? We discussed the duality of the American identity -- the concept that we, like Teddy, can be at once selfish and charitable -- and we agreed that this second Teddy Rist had to be as complex and conflicted as the one we already knew.
The other episodes of "The Philanthropist" span the globe from Nigeria to Burma and on to Haiti, but this episode was to be set in the United States. As we know too well, finding conflict in America is not difficult. But Brant and I wanted to address an issue on every American's mind, whether it be a faint murmur in a collected crowd or a bold headline on the front page of a newspaper. Our choice was not easy, but it was decidedly worthy.
"San Diego" begins with a story by Fyodor Dostoevsky and ends with a shot of empty wall space. The time in between is a chase -- Teddy pursuing Teddy across southern California, following a scavenger hunt of clues, searching for his own lost identity while learning about himself and his fellow citizens along the way.
We hope you enjoy it.
Co-Writer of "San Diego"
"In this week's episode, "Kosovo", we see Teddy's/Bobby's brand of philanthropy at its purest. He goes to Kosovo to open a facility that mines a mineral called Halloysite, a substance used widely in the manufacture of - amongst other things, motorcycle helmets, crockery and Viagra. The difference between Teddy and other industrialists is that he chooses Kosovo (which has one of the largest deposits of Halloysite in the world) not in spite of the conflicted and polarized community in that country, but because of it. He is imaginative enough to put his wealth, power and business acumen to use not only in the pursuit of profit but also in trying to help heal that terribly fractured community. This is similar to the work that Bobby Sager does in Rwanda, where he has managed to bring together women whose husbands are in jail for committing murder in the genocide of 1994 with women whose husbands were murdered in the genocide to start a business together weaving baskets, making jewelry and such like and then he helps them sell those goods on the world market. As he says: it's not only bad business to give a man a fish, as all he has at the end of the day is a fish, it's also bad business to simply give a man a pole with which to fish, because at the end of the day he still only has some fish. What is really sustainable is to teach that man how to package, market and sell that fish so that he can buy potatoes and chicken and maybe even educate his children so that real progress with his family is made.
Teddy is not too successful in his big idea, but he is successful in another of Bobby's essential tenets, and that is what he calls 'concrete baby steps'. It is this idea that is shot through the entire series of 'The Philanthropist'. As he has said "A concrete baby step is not a token effort; it's a tangible, usually hands-on response to a problem. Concrete baby steps are relatively easy to see individually, but it's hard to fathom their cumulative power. When we each take a concrete baby step, and we add up mine and yours and everyone else's, they can become the building blocks of transformational change. In fact, collectively, concrete baby steps may be the best solution we have to address the world's biggest problems."
Have a look at this story if you want to see how a multi-national can make a giant concrete baby step that will, without a doubt, effect transformational change in the lives of the people at the sharp end of industry. Teddy, in Kosovo, manages one concrete baby step. He persuades the Islamic woman, Genta, to admit to, and ask forgiveness for, a terrible crime that she committed during the war. It is a tiny step but an important building block nevertheless that will fundamentally help the boy come to terms with what has happened to him.
I loved this episode. I know it's complex and gray and difficult. But it's also full of the optimistic philosophy of "Yes, we can". When the BBC was created, its first Director-General, Lord Reith, said that its aim was threefold - to inform, educate and entertain. I hope that The Philanthropist manages in some way to do all those things for you. It is an incredibly difficult time for the networks right now and in a sea of procedural dramas and reality shows NBC should be applauded for even attempting a show with this level of heart, complexity and ambition. I sincerely hope that you enjoy the remaining three episodes and, regardless of what happens in the future, I am fiercely proud of what we've managed to achieve with the 8 little films that we've shot so far."
In this week's episode Teddy sees himself returning to Africa, as I find myself leaving.... packing my suitcases after an 11 month stay whilst working on the Philanthropist. When I first arrived here last September we were sent on a whirlwind tour from city to jungle, stunning beaches to working harbors, plush apartments to townships and before too long the many contradictions within this continent became very clear to me.
Whilst we see Teddy, AJ and Gerard's experiences unfold I can't help but think how my colleagues and I have been affected both by Africa and by working on the show. At times, when one sees the hardship that some of the families endure, it can be heartbreaking. Yet the pride, resolve and positivity that comes through has been incredibly humbling to us all. We have met with a great many people on this journey, all of whom have been so kind, generous and hospitable to us, and these experiences here have both educated and informed us.
Last week I had the privilege to meet with a husband and wife who over the last nine years have set up an orphanage within Khayelitsha (the largest township in Cape Town) and are now looking after 36 children, caring for the impoverished, abandoned and disabled. They provide food, shelter, clothing and support to the children, their hard work and determination to bring the children up in a secure and safe environment is astonishing, as is their love for them.
These are the images that will remain in my mind. After all this time away I am excited to return home but like Teddy I hope I may return to Africa soon to see the close friends and colleagues that I have made, as well as taste and smell this great and proud continent which is like no other.
Perspective. One point.
Hello fellow fans of The Philanthropist. I started working on this show over a year ago after having met a guy whose approach to philanthropy more than challenged me, it got my juices flowing. I got that feeling I get when I read a novel with a legendary protagonist like Odysseus, or I see a movie with an epic antihero like Batman. The guy that inspired this series is Bobby Sager. He's rich, not just financially, but texturally. Complicated. Like life and death.
During this series I had my own experiences with life and death. While filming the pilot my son Dashiell was born, and a few months later my father passed away from cancer. During those times when we come eyeball to eyeball with mortality, it is not uncommon to feel light, like you're floating. And this otherworldly, transitional feeling presents a great opportunity to change one's perspective on everything. That's what Teddy Rist did when he lost his son.
When Teddy's feet touch the ground this week in Paris he finds himself surrounded by beautiful women whose perspectives are quite different than the men they are forced to pleasure. He helps them with a hand up, not a hand out. He frees them so he can feel free himself. In the end, it is Teddy's ingenuity and willingness to risk his own life that makes the critical difference.
The Paris episode is another example of the power of engaging and being engaged. The world will keep spinning whether or not Teddy has a point of view about it. But by having a sense of purpose, Teddy does more than just save these women. Through his pursuit of that purpose Teddy is able to vanquish his own despair and replace bewilderment with hope.
As for me, I see the father I lost in the son I'm raising, just as Teddy sees the son he lost in the children he saves. From my perspective, our time here is short but we have a chance to make our presence felt. Supporting causes I believe in is a way to accomplish that. Even if feeling good is the reason you get involved, the end result is almost always an exponential return on your investment. As Sager says, "Be selfish. Go help someone."
Co-creator and Executive Producer
I thought long and hard about what I wanted to focus on this week and share with you, and the truth is I can't stop thinking about how lucky I have been to be a part of this show. It has always been my discipline as a producer to start with character, and with Teddy Rist, it just became so much more. To have the opportunity to exemplify a character who is trying to do right by the world, to shine a light on how we have to step out, engage and help make a difference just one person at a time, no matter what part of the world we are in, is a pretty powerful thing. Yes, our responsibility is to deliver amazing, entertaining and inspired episodes every week, but if we can continue the dialog beyond that, well that's incredibly satisfying. Teddy Rist is far from perfection, but aren't we all. He should represent the good in all of us, in our hearts and in the strength and courage we have, even if we have to dig a little deeper and help each other to make our world a better, safer place.
We hope you enjoy the series as much as we have enjoyed making it for you, and while life imitates art and vice versa, you will find tonight's episode, "Myanmar," right inside the political zeitgeist. We rip from the headlines, and in some cases ahead of them, and through Teddy's eyes and well, whatever it takes to get him there, hit the problem head on. Teddy's moral values are tested due to Maidstone-Rist's business ties in Myanmar, and, of course he spares no physical expense in seeking a higher authority's advice while also getting sidetracked, like only Teddy can, in helping those in need locally. You will again be provided links to organizations and resources that have direct and immediate impact on the issue within the episode. Don't forget to tune in, tell friends and enjoy!!
I have been working in Nigeria since the early 1970s as a research and activist. I arrived in the wake of the Nigerian civil war -- the eastern region had attempted to secede from the Nigerian federation -- and immediately prior to the "oil boom" of the 1970s. Nigeria was already a major oil producer but the sharp rise in oil prices, triggered in part by conflicts in the Middle East and the successful role of the OPEC oil cartel, and brought millions of dollars in oil revenues rushing into government coffers. It was an extraordinary period to live through as a poor and largely agricultural country was seemingly showered in vast, and potentially limitless, quantities of oil money ("petro-dollars"). But it all turned sour very quickly.
Nigeria is the eleventh largest producer and the eighth largest exporter of crude oil in the world. Nigerian oil production is currently running at roughly 2.45 million barrels per day. The Nigerian government expects proven reserves to grow to 40 billion barrels by 2010. But from the vantage point of the global oil industry, Nigeria's real wealth resides not in oil but in gas. Nigeria contains the largest natural gas reserves in Africa (176 trillion cubic feet) and is a global player in the production of liquefied natural gas. It is an exemplary case of what New York Times correspondent Thomas Friedmann has called a "petro-state."
The first barrels of Nigerian crude oil destined for the world market left the country almost exactly fifty years ago, on February 17th 1958. Oil had been discovered in the central Niger Delta in 1956 at Oloibiri, a small, remote creek community near Yenagoa -- now the capital of Bayelsa State -- located ninety kilometers to the west of Port Harcourt, the major oil city (Nigeria's Houston!) Wildcatters had begun drilling in 1951 in the northern and eastern reaches of what was then called Eastern Nigeria, and finally on August 3rd 1956 discovered oil in commercial quantities in tertiary deposits at 12,000 feet. Soon after Nigerian gasoline was fueling automobiles in and around London, the new symbols of post-war British prosperity. The Nigerian oil industry had been born.
The Nigerian oilfields are located in the southeast of the country in the Niger Delta region, a vast riverine area where the Niger River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. From the area, the Niger Delta appears as a huge carpet of tropical rainforest and mangrove swamps, criss-crossed by a maze of creeks and tributaries. Virtually every inch of the region has been touched by the industry, directly through its operations or indirectly through neglect. Over 6000 wells have been sunk, roughly one well for every 10 square kilometer quadrant in the core oil states. There are 606 oilfields (355 on shore) and 1500 "host communities" with some sort of oil or gas facility or infrastructure. There are 7000 kilometers of pipelines, 275 flow stations, 10 gas plants, 14 exports terminals, four refineries and a massive liquefied natural gas complex.
However, the effects of the oil industry in the fragile Niger Delta environment have been enormous. By conservative oil industry estimates there were almost 7000 oil spills between 1970 and 2000, more than one each day: that is an equivalent of one gallon of oil spilled for every 100 square meters of the Niger Delta. Gas flaring, dredging, large scale effluent release, mangrove clearance, massive pollution of surface and groundwater; these are the hallmarks of a half century of oil and gas extraction. A World Wildlife Fund report released in 2006 simply referred to the Niger Delta as one of the most polluted places on the face of the earth.
Like Saudi Arabia, Iran or Angola, Nigeria is an archetypical oil nation. Oil has indelibly shaped virtually all aspects of Nigeria's economic, political and social life. In 2009 over 87 percent of government revenues, 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings, 96 percent of export revenues and almost half of the gross domestic product (GDP) was accounted for by just one commodity: oil. Nigeria is what economists call a "resource dependent" economy: its wealth is tied to a single natural resource. It is, if you like, in economic terms a one-horse town.
As an oil state, Nigeria is driven by two cardinal principles: how and who captures the oil wealth and how to sow the oil revenues to pursue economic and social development. But what sort of development and change have these two principles wrought? What does a half century of oil-development mean for the average Nigerian?
Here the record is dismal and provides an entry point into the unforgiving, ruthless, and austere world of oil. To compile an inventory of the achievements of Nigerian petro-development is a salutary, if dismal, exercise: 85 percent of oil revenues accrue to 1 percent of the population. According to former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, at least $100 billion of the $600 billion in oil revenues accrued since 1960 have simply "gone missing." Nigerian anti-corruption czar Nuhu Ribadu claimed that in 2003, 70 percent of the country's oil wealth was stolen or wasted; by 2005 it was "only" 40 percent. By most conservative estimates almost $130 billion was lost in capital flight between 1970 and 1996. Between 1970 and 2000, the number of people subsisting on less than one dollar a day in Nigeria grew from 36 percent to more than 70 percent, from 19 million to a staggering 90 million. Over the last decade GDP per capita and life expectancy have, according to World Bank estimates, both fallen. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Nigeria's ranking in terms of the Human Development Index [HDI] -- a composite measure of life expectancy, income, and educational attainment -- is number 158, below Haiti and Congo; over the last thirty years the trend line of the HDI index has been moving upward, but barely.
Nigeria appears close to the top of virtually everyone's global ranking of corruption, business risk, and lack of transparency, fraud, and illicit activity. If viewers have any association with Nigeria it is probably through email fraud -- "Dear Sir: I am a former oil minister and I have the privilege of requesting your assistance in transferring $47 million" -- these are called "419 scams" in Nigeria. Nigerian fraud has its own FBI website. Nigeria is not country, as someone once noted, it is a profession.
To suggest, as the International Monetary Fund has, that $600 billion dollars have contributed to decline in the standard of living -- that most Nigerians are poorer today than they were in the late colonial period as Nwafejoku Uwadibie says -- is mind boggling and at the same time a gigantic failure of leadership and governance. Nigeria has become a model failure. After the discovery of oil in Mongolia, a local leader pronounced: "We do not want to become another Nigeria."
It is sometimes hard to gasp the contours of Nigeria's "oil failure." From the vantage point of the Niger Delta -- but no less in the vast slum worlds of Kano, Port Harcourt or Lagos -- oil-development is a pathetic and cruel joke. It is not simply that Nigeria is a sort of Potemkin economy -- it is of course -- but the cruel fact is that the country has become a perfect storm of waste, corruption, venality and missed opportunity. To say that Nigeria suffers from corruption -- organized brigandage is how a famous Nigerian once described it -- does not really capture the nature of the beast. Money laundering and fraud on gargantuan scales, missing billions and inflated contracts in virtually every aspect of public life, touts, security, military and police forces all taking their cuts and commissions on the most basic of everyday activities.
Perhaps there is no better metaphor for this oil-fueled failure than the stunning fact that huge quantities of oil are simply stolen every day. Over the last five years, between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels of oil have been stolen daily (perhaps 10-15 percent of national output), organized by a syndicate of "bunkerers" linking low-level operatives and thugs in the creeks to the highest levels of the Nigerian military and political classes and to the oil companies themselves. Managing Director of Chevron Nigeria, Jay Prior, once observed that he had "run companies that have had less production than is being bunkered in [Nigeria]." The head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] Nuhu Ribadu described the matter with great precision: the state, he said, is "not even corruption. It is organized crime."
Nowhere are the failures more profound and visible than across the oilfields of the Niger Delta. For the vast majority, oil has brought only misery, violence and a dying ecosystem. A United Nations report on human development in the Niger Delta was unflinching in its assessment: the "appalling development situation" reflects the shameful fact that after a half century of oil development "the vast resources from an international industry have barely touched pervasive local poverty." By almost any measure of social and economic achievement, the oil-producing region is a calamity. The United Nations, in the most systematic account of development trends, estimates that between 1996 and 2002 the Human Development Indices actually fell in the core oil-producing states. Literacy rates in the core states are barely 40%, the proportion of primary school children enrolled is, according to a Niger Delta Environmental Survey (NDES), 39 percent. The ratio of doctor-to-population is 1:27,000 in Delta State (and 1:282,000 in some of the local government areas in Southern Ijaw, Bayelsa State). There is one secondary health care facility for every 131,000 people serving an area of 583 square kilometers. The number of persons per hospital bed is three times higher than the already appalling national average. Electricity is a running joke. Outside of the urban areas only 20% of settlements are linked to a national grid that does not function in any meaningful sense.
One of the horrors of the Delta is that the ultra-modernity of oil sits cheek by jowl with the most unimaginable poverty. Around the massive Escravos oil installation with its barbed wire fences, its security forces, and its comfortable houses for international oil workers are nestled shacks, broken-down canoes and children who will be lucky to reach adulthood. "You will just shake your head," says local resident Dorothy Ejuwa, casting an eye on the glare of the nighttime lights of Escravos: "For how long can we remain like this? That is our bitterness."
It is from this sea of misery and exclusion that another aspect of contemporary Nigeria, "The Philanthropist's" passing reference to "rebels," has garnered international attention. Currently the Nigerian oil and gas industry has in effect been closed down by a military insurgency. Various militant groups, beginning in the late 1990s, have gradually escalated their war against the Nigerian government and the international oil companies who operate in the Niger Delta (most importantly Shell, Chevron, Total, Agip, Exxon). The descent into violence and crime cannot be understood outside of the processes by which the oil-producing region has incurred all of the costs of the development of the oil and gas sector and received few if any of the benefits. The current population of the oil region is 28 million of the total population of 150 million, yet the majority of the oil wealth is captured by the federal state and distributed to the so-called "ethnic majorities" in the politically dominant northern and western states.
One of Nigeria's greatest activists and human rights leaders, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who mobilized a small ethnic group called the Ogoni in the early 1990s to demand compensation from the companies and the government, feared that the grievances, if left unaddressed, would descend into the worst sort of bloodletting. But even Saro-Wiwa's gravest fears could not have anticipated the calamitous descent into violence over the last decade, culminating with the dramatic appearance of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in late 2005. In a series of attacks, something like 20 percent of national output was compromised in a single day. MEND insurgents, claimed Jomo in 2006, "were not communists... or revolutionaries. [They] are just very bitter men." By March 2007 over 200 expatriate oil-worker hostages have been taken and 42 attacks on oil installations have occurred. Within a year of their appearance MEND had, as they themselves predicted, shut-in over one third of Nigeria's oil output. Writing in mid-2007, the International Herald Tribune (April 22nd 2007) captures vividly the brave new world ushered in by the oil rebels:
Companies now confine employees to heavily fortified compounds, allowing them to travel only by armored car or helicopter... One company has outfitted bathrooms with steel bolts to turn them into "panic" rooms, if needed. Another has coated the pylons of a giant oil-production platform 130 kilometers, or 80 miles, offshore with waterproof grease to prevent attackers from climbing the rig. ...Some foreign operators have abandoned oil fields or left the country altogether. "I can't think of anything worse right now," said Larry Johnson, a former U.S. Army officer who was recently hired to toughen security at a Nigerian site operated by Eni, an Italian oil producer. "Even Angola during the civil war wasn't as bad."
By the summer of 2009, oil output, which typically runs at roughly 2.3 million barrels per day (mbpd), was down to 1.7 mbpd. Shell, the largest international operator accounting for almost half of all oil output, had lost $10.6 billion in revenues since late 2005. On May 13th 2009 the Nigerian military forces launched a full-scale assault on the militants in an effort to stabilize a region, and an economy, that was in effect ungovernable.
This is the larger canvas on which the first episode of "The Philanthropist" first must be located. Poverty, corruption, oil wealth and political conflict are central realities not just to doing business in Nigeria, but to the everyday realities of the armies of Nigerian poor.
Viewers interested in exploring these issues further may wish to see a collaborative effort between myself and New York photographer Ed Kashi, in which we document the costs of a half century of oil in the Niger Delta (the book is entitled "Curse of the Black Gold," Powerhouse Press, 2007, and Ed's website is: http://www.curseoftheblackgoldbook.com/). Seattle-based filmmaker Sandy Cioffi has also released an excellent new film on oil and the Niger Delta entitled "Sweet Crude." (http://www.sweetcrudemovie.com/). In addition, a number of non-profit and philanthropic groups have been active around oil and development issues in Nigeria and you may wish to see the websites of the following organizations in Nigeria and elsewhere:
Environmental Rights Action: http://www.eraction.org/
Social Action: http://www.saction.org
Justice in Nigeria: http://justiceinnigerianow.org/
Global Witness and OxfamAmerica have both been involved in issues of corporate social responsibility in the oil and gas industry and in bringing the plight of the poor in African and other oil states to international attention.
Global Witness: http://www.globalwitness.org/
A new report on the region has been released in June 2009 by Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org/
Class of '63, Professor
Each week, an expert on the subject matter and location of that week's "The Philanthropist" episode will be presented in this blog. This is your chance to interact with and pose questions to these featured experts. He or she will provide a blog entry the following week addressing your specific questions and discussion topics.
Episode 1 - Nigeria, Part 1
Expert: Michael Watts
Michael Watts has been on the faculty of the geography department at UC Berkeley since 1979, where his research has focused on African development, contemporary geopolitics, social movements and the political ecology of oil in Nigeria. He is currently working on a book that explores the role of oil in the Niger Delta.
Michael previously served from 1994 to 2004 as director of the Institute of International Studies, a program that promotes cross-disciplinary global and transnational research and training. Watts was named a 2003 Guggenheim fellow for his research on oil politics in Nigeria, a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (2004), and the Smuts Lecturer at Cambridge University in 2007.
Next week expert Michael Watts will respond to your questions. Click here to go to our message boards where you can leave questions for him.