Argentine scientist and co-founder of the global movement »Debt for Climate«, Esteban Servat, is being singled out for speaking up against Total’s devastating operations
Servat at a protest against LNG terminals in Hannover, Germany, 2020
Argentine scientist and co-founder of the global movement »Debt for Climate«, Esteban Servat, is being persecuted for speaking up against fossil power. He already had to leave his home in Argentina after speaking up against fracked gas destroying his home region.
Now the story repeats in his exile: he is due to appear at the Copenhagen court Wednesday, August 30th, to face charges connected to a climate protest that included occupying Total´s Scandinavian headquarters in Copenhagen on November 18th, 2021, as part of the global campaign »Collapse Total«.
He personally confronted Total’s highest executive in Denmark, Martin Rune Pedersen, denouncing his company's environmental crimes around the world.
Global South activists, including Servat, at a protest against LNG terminals in Brunsbüttel, Germany, 2021
Now Servat is being singled out from the more than 20 people participating in the protest in an attempt to divide the movement. There is a ruthless cynicism in targeting Servat as the only Global South activist in the action: After all it was precisely Global North companies like Total who drove him out of his home in the first place:
“It is outrageous to see our government pick on the only Global South person from the group, who comes from an area directly affected by Total´s fracking”
said a local activist who was part of the action.
A scientist turned activist, Servat helped spark a mass environmental movement in Argentina, where he founded the platform »EcoLeaks« and published censored government documents revealing contamination by fracking operations. He became the target of intense persecution and threats, leading to his exile to Europe in 2019.
He has since played a leading role in building international solidarity networks, and organized multiple global mobilization campaigns denouncing the environmental damage caused by Total and other multinational fossil fuel companies in Global South countries.
Total is among the mostly Global North companies exploiting the shale gas basin »Vaca Muerta« in Argentina. There the fracking technology is used, in which a water-sand-chemical mixture is pressed into the rock under high pressure to allow gas and oil to escape through cracks.
Servat regularly talks about fighting neocolonial powers at climate protests, highlighting the suffering at the frontlines in the Global South
Even in normal operation, this results in widespread contamination of groundwater and regular leaks that contaminate rivers vital for agriculture: On average, two spills occur daily in the Neuquén Basin. Natural gas is essentially methane, and extraction, transport and combustion leak the gas, which has 87 times the greenhouse effect of CO2 - Even with conservative estimates of leakage, fracked natural gas is the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of greenhouse effect.
While the groundwater is widely contaminated, threatening agriculture and killing people with diseases like leukemia, any protest against the extraction is met with brutality. From the very beginning of the large scale operation in 2013 especially indigenous groups like the Mapuche living in the territory have been beaten up, houses being burned down and people silenced.
This is only one of many examples of the continuous exploitation of the Global South acting as the main driving force of environmental destruction, fuelled by fossil companies power. Facing this injustice people were standing up against Total‘s crimes in places like the DR Congo, Mozambique, Zambia and Lebanon in the aforementioned campaign »Collapse Total« in 2021.
Activists in the centers of power in the Global North were supporting the frontline protests – just like Servat and the rest of the group at the Total headquarters in Copenhagen, amplifying the voice of the dispossessed and humiliated all over the world.
Realizing that there is no place at the negotiating table for the very people who are responsible for the destruction, they were demanding to turn that headquarters into a people‘s climate house. For civil society to connect and take up the task of surviving on this planet that Total & Co. are working against.
Now fossil power is materializing in the persecution of Servat. Using the shelter of the Danish justice system, a country in which Total would not be allowed the same quality of environmental crimes, Total is trying yet again to silence the people calling out their crimes. Servat said that,
“Coming from a country where the justice system is used as a weapon to persecute environmental defenders on behalf of fossil fuel companies, this comes as no surprise to me. It is rather a good example of how this co-optation of state institutions by fossil fuel corporate interests is not exclusive to Global South countries.”
No surprise indeed. But we need to stand together against this global tactic of “Divide and Conquer“ to make this a surprise for Total.
During the forming of a mass environmental movement in Argentina Servat got the support of Pope Francis against fracking
Find out more about Pope Francis' support of Debt for Climate here