Kuwait Wildlife Campaign (1991)


Pictured on the cover of National Geographic (August 1991), Michael Bailey
and Rick Thorpe of Earthtrust assessing environmental damage
in the oil fields of Kuwait shortly after the end of the Gulf War in 1991.

In 1991, during the Gulf War, Earthtrust was the first conservation organization to field personnel into the war zone on behalf of the environment; teams were in Bahrain before the Scud missiles stopped falling, and inside Kuwait while shots were still being fired. Responding to urgent requests by a representative of Kuwait's royal family and by the few Kuwaiti authorities still in the country, Earthtrust created an environmental nerve center in the lobby of the Kuwait Hilton. From this coordinating office, subsequently named the Kuwait Environmental Information Center, Earthtrust worked to assess damage to the environment and protect the environment when possible. Earthrust campaign workers--including Randy Thomas, Michael Bailey, Rick Thorpe, Jim Logan, Jim Deckard, Art van Remundt, Kerry Plowright and many others from around the world--braved toxic smoke conditions and live mine fields to deploy oil barriers to protect wetlands; and provided a steady flow of information to the royal family and Kuwait authorities. This aided the efforts to open the oilwell fire-fighting efforts to international teams, rather than only to U.S. teams, resulting in the fires being extinguished an order of magnitude more quickly. Earthtrust prepared the first environmental impact assessment on postwar Kuwait for members of the Kuwait cabinet and Royal Family. Representatives of the Kuwait government and royal family had promised repayment of any necessary expenditures made by Earthtrust in doing this work, but reneged on this promise (roughly US$200,000 in 1991 dollars). The fighting of the oilwell fires was memorialized in the internationally broadcast Earthtrust documentary Hell on Earth, produced by Jim Deckard. Exclusive, Earthtrust-sponsored video footage also appeared throughout a five-part Canadian Broadcasting Corporation mini-series; as well as the award-winning documentary titled Eco War. Although news coverage of the war's environmental aftermath was actively discouraged, Thomas filed regular reports with the Environment News Service using Kuwait's only two-way fax line; other stories exposing the biggest environmental disaster in modern times were subsequently narrated by Earthtrust staff. Earthtrust's dramatic campaign is the subject of an upcoming internationally-televised video documentary scheduled for airing in early 2005.


Earthtrust bumper sticker from Gulf campaign.

EarthTrust

Windward Environmental Center
1118 Maunawili Road
Kailua, HI 96734 USA
(808) 261-5339
FAX: 206-202-3893

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