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:

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

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Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

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There are few things as frightening to a parent than losing your child in a crowded place like a shopping mall, zoo, or stadium. The moment you realize your child is missing, it's impossible not to consider the terrifying idea they may have been kidnapped.

A woman in New Zealand recently lost her son in a Kmart but was able to locate him because of a potentially life-saving parenting hack she saw on TikTok a few months ago.

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