The 20th centuries great paranoia was the ever looming threat of the atomic bomb. Images of mushroom clouds and radiation permeated the minds of children and parents alike. The desolate aftermath of shadows left on pavement if you were lucky or the cancerous tumors & malformed children if you weren't. The bomb was both sobering and anxiety inducing. New movements arose that sought to address this anxiety like the anti war push during Vietnam or the hippie movement thriving under Nixon. Yet the Cold War ended without the explosive grand finale. Not with a bang but a whimper. In the 90s, a brief optimism took over the western world. Unfortunately, it should have been turning its attention to the increasing amounts of CO2 being trapped in the atmosphere but a powerful set of interests kept action at bay.
In 1977, the Exxon Mobil corporation discovered something that wouldn't become a public issue for another decade. The burning of oil, gas, and fossil fuels was releasing massive amounts of chemicals, including carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. These chemicals were being trapped, causing a gradual warming of global temperatures due to the sun's radiation being unable to escape the atmosphere. One of the senior scientists Exxon hired named James Black told them this:
“Present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical."
The following decades Exxon spent spreading misinformation, burying scientific studies, funding think tanks to push denialist talking points, and profiting comfortably on the knowledge of climate change. Exxon’s own reports state there will be: “dramatic environmental effects before the year 2050.”
What has this atrocity brought to Exxon? Meet their current CEO Darren W. Woods. Woods joined Exxon in 1992 and became CEO in 2017. He currently has a net worth of $80 million. His compensation package breaks down like this:
Stock awards: $13,505,225
Change in pension value and deferred compensation: $5,137,153
All other compensation: $173,110
Earning him a whopping $23,572,488 annually. Exxon has been handsomely rewarded for their malice and will continue destroying the world unchecked because they have no detterents. Every societal force gives them the green light. Exxon is far from a lone wolf in the game of suppressing information and lighting the planet ablaze. Guilty of the same crimes as Exxon, Chevron has reveled in destroying those that challenge them.
In August of 2019, a multibillion dollar case was won against Chevron, one of the largest oil companies in operation with a market cap of $228 billion. Steven Donzinger, an American attorney, had been helping Indigenous peoples in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador. In 1993, the class action lawsuit filed against Texaco by the 30,000 farmers and Indigenous people in the Amazon was spearheaded by Donziger. Chevron bought Texaco in 2001, and therefore inherited the clean up which Texaco was court ordered to deliver on. Chevron has accused Donzinger of organized crime and filed RICO charges against him in the state of New York. Donzinger has been put under house arrest and has remained there to this day. Internal memos leaked in as early as 2009, Chevron's explicit sentiment was that they were going to destroy him as a long term strategy. They hired private investigators to track Donzinger. They created a public publication called The Amazon Post specifically designed to smear him and promote propaganda against him. Chevron put together a legal team of lawyers from 60 firms to pursue a campaign against him. Donzinger has been disbarred and his bank accounts frozen.
The CEO of Chevron is named Michael Wirth. He took over as both CEO and chairman of the board in 2018 with a net worth of $50 million. His compensation breaks down like so:
Stock awards: $12,233,699
Options awards: $3,874,962
Non-equity incentive plan compensation: $4,500,000
All other compensation: $351,624
Destroying indigenous lands and upstart lawyers alike is profitable. Annually, Wirth makes $22,610,285. Hopefully the billions dead will be worth every penny.
Shell CEO Wael Sawan has made ripples as he took a head first dive into malice. Six months into his role as chief executive officer, he quietly ended the world's biggest corporate plan to develop carbon offsets. With Shells massive emissions and lobbying done to prevent any action being taken on climate change, this was truly the least they could do. However, for Sawan, the least you can do is far too much and scraping the bottom of the barrel is an art form. Sawan stuck to his guns during an all-day investor event in June in which he axed an $100 million a year commitment to build a pipeline of carbon credits. Instead he's doubling down on oil and gas. This isn't an especially shocking revelation, however, it should be a wake up call to anyone who sincerely believes in the promises of net zero emissions by 2050. Unless governments actively eradicate oil companies, there's more likely a chance of an alien landing than net zero. Sawan is a new CEO so his compensation breakdown isn't public yet. However, he came into the job with a $1.72 million salary and his stock, bonus, and additional compensation will likely be around $23
million like his peers. Hopefully his vacation homes have flood insurance.
British Petroleum's biggest highlight in recent years is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. What many don't know is that the 2010 oil spill is still causing damage over a decade later. 130 million gallons of crude oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico in the largest oil spill in U.S. waters and one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Eleven oil workers were killed. So were an uncountable number of marine mammals, sea turtles, birds, and fish. The oil gushed for 87 straight days. These populations were so profoundly erased that their numbers haven't come close to recovering a decade later. About 1000 dolphins died from ingesting oil toxins and now only 20% of dolphin pregnancies in that area reach completion. This is relative to the 83% in the wild. Bottlenose dolphins are experiencing higher rates of reproductive failure, lung disease, heart disease, impaired stress response, and death. Just like the dolphins, the human beings who helped clean up the toxic oil have had impaired lung and heart functionality. Half of the coral colonies that were enveloped by the spill have been injured. The number of sea turtle nests off the Gulf has dropped 35%. Needless to say, the damage of the BP oil spill has been vast and piercing.
Bernard Looney, BP's current CEO, has been working there since 1991 as an engineer but only reached CEO in 2020. In 2022, BP had record high profits. Looney's stock made about $12 million and his base salary was a cool $1.6 million. The former engineer involved in Deepwater Horizon sleeps soundly on his bed of money.
There are many more businesses, industries, and CEOs that contribute to the ongoing climate crisis. Each of them, complicity in a system of global suffering and contributing to an extinction event of their own species for the sake of personal enrichment. Their faces and names remaining largely unknown and unseen from the conversation. Their money talks for them, lining the pockets of politicians. The Survivors pledges to make them known.