"Delta Boys" is a must-see film about Niger Delta militant rebels who are fighting government and environmental oppression in oil-rich Nigeria. Award-winning filmmaker, Andrew Berends, who was arrested in Nigeria during the filming of this documentary, bravely crosses the lines of Nigeria's oil conflict to bear witness to the lives of the militants engaged in the bloody struggle and the civilians caught in the crossfire.
Nigeria, Africa's most populated country, is the fifth largest oil supplier to America. So, no matter how far away this problem seems, it is something much closer to home than most of us want to believe. As we nervously watch the price of gasoline go up at the pumps, we try to forget where it comes from and at what cost.
While focusing on the rebels living in the Niger Delta where hundreds of millions of dollars of oil is extracted every year, "Delta Boys" reveals the impoverished lives of all who reside in the Niger Delta. The area has been destroyed by the oil industry and the Nigerian government. They turn a blind eye to the hundreds of oil spills that occur every year and the ongoing suffering of the indigenous population.
Photo of Nigerian Rebels from "Delta Boys". Courtesy Filmmakers and Journeyman Films.
Reuters recently reported: "An oil spill near an ExxonMobil oilfield off the southeast coast of Nigeria has spread along the shore for about 15 miles, and locals said it was killing fish they depend upon to live."
While I am not a supporter of violent protest, it's hard not to have some compassion for the rebels involved in the conflict. Nigerians who live on the Delta can't fish and live off the land as once they did. There are no schools. There are no jobs. There are no hospitals or healthcare. There are no adequate roads. Despite billions of dollars pumped, (or should I say pimped?), out of the ground, oil rich executives and government officials seem not to be human enough to be concerned about the pollution, help the local population at all or share even a small fraction of the wealth. Perhaps the powers that be hope the common people living in the Niger Delta will just die off and leave an invisible wasteland while continuing to line their pockets with the dirty money from the oil industry.
In the end, "Delta Boys" is a film not just about oil conflict in Nigeria. It is also a damning reveal about the international oil industry's devastating social and environmental policies across the globe AND the complicit, corrupt governments who partner with them to pump oil, no matter the social or environmental cost.
In the same vein as "The Big Fix", a masterful cinematic expose about the devastating BP Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and "Crude", a film chronicling the devastation wrought by the oil industry in Equador, "Delta Boys" is yet another wake up call for the world to encourage finding a better way to fuel itself.
Closer to home, how many of us even remember that in 2010, after the BP Horizon Spill, a pipeline break in Michigan sent 819,000 gallons of toxic tar sands sludge sliding into the Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River? The LA Times reported: "Before the spill, many residents weren't even aware a pipeline ran through their community. And Government investigators concluded that the pipeline's Canadian owner, Enbridge Inc., knew about the crack that led to the spill five years before the accident."
Sign placed after almost a million gallons of oil were spilled in Michigan in 2010. Picture via 2ndgradebikerack.blogspot.com
What are the likely outcomes of arctic drilling? A recent Moscow Times article might give an indication: "Spill Dumps 2,200 Tons of Oil in Arctic." The article detailed the shocking revelation that the Russian oil spill covered 5 square kilometers of the pristine arctic wilderness. And, what's more frightening, Greenpeace estimated that 5 million tons of oil leak from Russian pipelines and in accidents every year. This is the equivalent of seven disasters on the scale of BP's Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite significant, substantial efforts by the Obama administration to embrace renewable energy, the U.S. national energy policy is still primarily dominated by the oil and gas industry. Pro oil and gas policy is encouraged by both sides of the political spectrum. In addition to opening up the (melting) Arctic for drilling, there's a rallying cry for more and more dangerous drilling including more wells in the Gulf of Mexico, a push for more dangerous fracking for natural gas all over the country and the building of the giant XL pipeline through the heart of America to pump in the dirtiest oil on earth from the tar sands in Canada.
Susan Connolly, a Michigan resident, was impacted by the Michigan 2012 oil spill which, despite being huge, was overshadowed by the larger BP Spill. In the LA Times report, Ms. Connolly related that she became a health advocate after her children, 2 and 4 at the time of the spill, started throwing up and developing rashes when the spill hit less than a mile from their day-care center. Isn't it time we all become health advocates?
Next time you fill up the tank at the gas station or light up a propane-fueled barbecue grill, please remember Susan Connolly in Michigan, the residents of the Gulf Coast, the impoverished Nigerians on the Niger Delta and the many communities around the world already impacted, negatively, by oil and gas drilling.
A national political policy that is Drill Baby Drill is, effectively, really Spill Baby Spill.
Susan Connolly forewarned: "I hope other communities will learn how we've been impacted here in Michigan. There will be other spills. It's not a matter of if, but when."
Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, it does not matter. The toxic legacy of the oil and gas industry continues to haunt us. From the Niger River Delta to Dimmock, Pennsylvania, Michigan to the North Sea, the Arctic to the shores of Louisiana, we ALL are Delta Boys.
No matter your political persuasion, sticking your head under the tar sands and pretending how we fuel the planet doesn't effect us really isn't going to work anymore.
Copyright Paul E McGinniss 2012
Check out the Trailer to "Delta Boys" Below. (Double click to Watch Full Screen.)