The Accident Has Never Been Cleaned Up, So After 20 Years He Decided To Don A Suit And Do Something

It was a silent disaster in the night.

30 years ago, a gas leak from a Union Carbide-owned agricultural chemical plant caused a massive cloud of poison to envelope a sleeping city. Over half a million people in Bhopal, India, were exposed to toxic gas. 8,000 people died immediately or in the following weeks. 100,000 suffer chronic and incurable diseases today.


People in Bhopal and elsewhere continue to request that Dow Chemical (the company that now owns Union Carbide) provide support for people still suffering — victims received very little compensation — and clean up the chemical plant. The derelict plant sits unremedied, polluting drinking water.

After 20 years, the Yes Men shook things up.

10 years ago, on the 20th anniversary of the world's largest agricultural industry disaster, a member of the activist group the Yes Men posed as a Dow Chemical representative and issued a statement that Dow had agreed to compensate those harmed in the accident. The BBC fell for it. Watch what happened:

The BBC gave Bichlbaum a hard time about misleading people. What do you think?

There is some good news: People in the U.S. have divested from Dow, and the Indian government has agreed to provide financial support for some victims.

This isn't just a one-time incident. Here are six others:

  • Fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, April 17, 2013. An explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas, 18 miles (29 km) north of Waco while emergency services personnel were responding to a fire at the facility. At least 14 people were killed, more than 160 were injured, and more than 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed.
  • AZF fertilizer factory, Toulouse, France. Sept. 21, 2001. An explosion at the factory killed 29 and injured 2,500.
  • The Sandoz disaster in Schweizerhalle, Switzerland, Nov. 1, 1986, released tons of toxic agrochemicals into the Rhine River.
  • Dec. 3, 1984: The Bhopal disaster in India caused by poisonous methyl isocyanate caused the pressure relief system to vent large amounts to the atmosphere at a Union Carbide India Limited plant. Death toll estimates range from 4,000 to 20,000, with severe human and animal health problems continuing up to the present day.
  • The Minamata disaster, Japan, 1932-1968, was caused by the dumping of mercury compounds in Minamata Bay, Japan. The Chisso Corporation, a fertilizer and later petrochemical company, was found responsible for polluting the bay for 37 years. It is estimated that over 3,000 people suffered various deformities, severe mercury poisoning symptoms, or death.
  • Texas City, April 16, 1947. 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilizer and blasting, detonated, creating a chain reaction of fires and explosions killing at least 581 people, including all but one member of the Texas City fire department.
  • Oppau, Germany, Sept. 21, 1921. A tower silo storing 4,500 tonnes of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded at a BASF plant in Oppau, killing 500-600 people and injuring about 2,000 more.
  • Our fertilizers and pesticides are dangerous, toxic chemicals. Isn't it a twisted paradox that so many people die in order to create chemicals we use to grow food so people can live?

    Bonus track: The Yes Men's latest:

True

When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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