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Crude Existence

Crude Existence: Environment and the Politics of Oil in Northern Angola

Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 338
  • Book Info
    Crude Existence
    Book Description:

    After decades of civil war and instability, the African country of Angola is experiencing a spectacular economic boom thanks to its most valuable natural resource: oil. But oil extraction--both on- and offshore--is a toxic remedy for the country's economic ills, with devastating effects on both the environment and traditional livelihoods. Focusing on the everyday realities of people living in the extraction zones, Kristin Reed explores the exclusion, degradation, and violence that are the fruits of petrocapitalism in Angola.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94258-5
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. 1. Washing Ashore
    (pp. 1-16)

    Waves rolled toward a wide beach where a group of fishermen hauled in a net, keeping pace with the crash and flow of the foam-white surf. Their calloused hands clutched at the worn rope, steadied against the ocean’s tugging withdrawal. And then, poised for its return, the fishermen turned their backs to the sea, dug their toes into the sinking sand and heaved forward. Once they had dragged the net onto the beach, the men appraised its meager contents, negotiating with a fish trader. She rinsed handfuls of the silvery, long-whiskered fish in seawater and dropped them in her blue...

  6. 2. Petro-Capitalism
    (pp. 17-43)

    Small ripples spread across the surface of the crescent-shaped Luanda Bay as a tanker truck pumped raw sewage into its stagnant waters. Snaked across the boardwalk, the sewage hose gurgled faintly. Joggers took wide strides over it, but none seemed to question its presence. It was as if their disregard signaled a begrudging concession of government diversions of oil revenues into patronage networks, illicit arms deals, and private accounts, which left little for investments in infrastructure or social services. The downtown streets of Luanda reek of urine and decay. The city’s sanitary shortcomings reflect a lack of government investment in...

  7. 3. Petro-Violence
    (pp. 44-69)

    Waves charged toward the Cabo Ledo shoreline, breaking with violent explosions of sea foam. The thunderous roar of the waves drowned out the sounds on the promontory above, where Special Forces divisions of the Angolan army conducted training exercises from a former Portuguese military base. Portugal abandoned its military bases in Angola when the colonial power granted independence to its overseas territories in 1975. As Portuguese soldiers withdrew, new waves of violence swept across Angola propelled by petro-capitalism’s insidious cousin: petro-violence.

    Petro-violencedescribes the conflicts funded by oil revenues and struggles over control of oil reserves, but it also encompasses...

  8. 4. Shallow Graves
    (pp. 70-103)

    Waves tumbled toward the shore, breaking on a rusted tank half-interred in the sand. The tank and abandoned Soviet missiles in the bluffs above recalled battles between the government and UNITA. Like the tank, the painful memories of war remain only partially buried in Soyo.

    Soyo sits in Angola’s northwestern corner, where the Congo River slips along circuitous paths to the sea.¹ The municipality of 109,500 contains 35 percent of the population of Zaire province, with 19.6 inhabitants per square kilometer (GoA 2003a). Soyo town functions as the municipal seat; it has a population of 45,000—just 5,000 fewer inhabitants...

  9. 5. Unpalatable Compensation
    (pp. 104-136)

    Waves lapping at Fútila’s blackened beach tell the story of the fishing community’s relationship to oil. The community’s proximity to offshore extraction and the Malongo base has rendered local livelihoods extremely vulnerable to pollution. Relying on the bounty of the sea, Fútila has grown poorer as workers from the neighboring base have exploited the rich deposits of oil beneath the seafloor.

    At first glimpse, I found Malongo to be nothing more than an average industrial complex. It contains oil storage depots, a small refinery, living quarters, dining facilities, office blocks, and a company clinic. Standing outside its gates, however, I...

  10. 6. Militant Territorialization
    (pp. 137-171)

    From an altitude of around one thousand meters, the waves tumbling toward Cabinda’s coast appeared frilled and tame . As the plane made its final descent, my perspective shifted and the waves took on a new character—slamming against the shore with great force. The plane taxied to the terminal, and I pulled the in-flight magazine of Angola’s national airline from the seatback pocket.¹ A colorful article accompanied by a set of glossy photos depicted a peaceful Cabinda. The author described the nightly “shows” from the offshore oil installations where “dozens of flares from the ocean light up the night...

  11. 7. Corporate Territorialization
    (pp. 172-204)

    The gloss of gasoline produced iridescent swirls on the surface of Cabinda Bay. Like the gleam on the water, Chevron has spread the sheen of development in its wake. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects dotting the Cabindan landscape reflect waves of corporate influence. Investments in Cabinda’s capital city and the coastal areas near the offshore sites of extraction seek to simultaneously extend Chevron’s “social license to operate” and cut production costs, while oil-backed development investments in the interior contribute to territorialization. As Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) soldiers destroyed separatist FLEC strongholds, Chevron’s development projects lured the terrorized populace into government-held...

  12. Conclusion: Converging Shores
    (pp. 205-212)

    An oil slick rippled across calm waters. As the spill spread its toxic shadow across the bay, tar balls spattered local beaches and the corpses of 1,800 oilfouled seabirds washed ashore (Schreiber 2008). Authorities closed more than fifty coastal recreation areas and ordered a halt to all fishing activities. Halfway around the world from Fútila, this spill hit close to home.

    More than 200,000 liters of bunker fuel oil had gushed into the San Francisco Bay after theCosco Busancollided with the Bay Bridge on November 7, 2007. The slick spread west through the fabled Golden Gate into the...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 213-272)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-308)
  15. Index
    (pp. 309-323)