Oil Spills in the Amazon

Levita, a resident of the remote indigenous community of Temashnum, shows us contaminated soil left on her fields after the cleanup.

In June of 2016, following multiple underreported oil spills in the northern Peruvian Amazon, myself and anthropologist Rebecca Wolff undertook an investigation into the state of several remote communities reportedly affected by the spills. With the help of several indigenous community leaders in the Loreto region of Peru, myself and photographer Brett Monroe Garner attempted to document the recovery process following the spills. 

What we found was a pattern of neglect and incomplete cleanup on the part of the state-sponsored oil company, PetroPeru. The investigation was published in Mongabay, and subsequently drew the attention of the Institute of Legal Defense, an advocacy organization within Peru. A case was presented on behalf of the affected communities to the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, and the resulting political pressure placed on PetroPeru has led to major reforms in the way spills are being handled. 

Rebecca Wolff has recently received support from the National Geographic Society to carry on work related to indigenous health issues following environmental disasters. We plan to continue this important work in the near future. 

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