Argentinian activist Esteban on how to build climate action in global solidarity

Esteban Servat talks about campaigning against fracking in Argentina, intimidation and exile, and what you can do to help stand in solidarity.

Anti-fracking protest in Mendoza, Argentina

Esteban Servat is an Argentinian scientist who worked in Silicon Valley before returning to the Mendoza province where he created a self-sustaining community. Before his arrival, the local community had successfully fought against mega-mining projects from western multinationals including Coro Mining and Barrick Gold. Ten years later, the government of Argentina began sponsoring fracking projects – again for the profit of western multinationals like BP or Total. These projects destroy Patagonia’s landscapes and threaten the health livelihoods of its inhabitants by contaminating precious water sources. Children in areas with fracking wells are dying of leukemia at a rate three times higher than the national average. In the face of this threat, Esteban became an activist to stop the projects.

He was forced into exile to Berlin in 2019 after countless attempts at psychological and physical intimidation.

This is his story.

As Esteban dug deeper into the fracking project process, he uncovered a document that revealed the process’ huge environmental impact. The government was attempting to bury the evidence and replace the study results with fakes to make sure the local population would not take action and fight against the fracking wells.

Having discovered the incriminating document, Esteban and other activists decided to create Ecoleaks, a website that would host leaked confidential documents exposing environmental scandals. They then released the document to the public.

Local residents were outraged and organised into the largest anti-fracking movement in Argentina’s history. This also caused the government to pay close attention to Esteban’s activism. The government brought trumped-up criminal cases against Esteban and fellow activists in an attempt to bully them into silence. Following a mounting campaign of violence against him and his family, including death threats, Esteban went into exile to Berlin, Germany.

Once in Europe, he focused on the responsibility of western countries in the disaster his community in Argentina was fighting against.

Enter climate colonialism and global solidarity

Esteban uses the example of fracking to show how European countries are playing a direct role in the destruction of the environment and the people of front-line communities across the globe.

Big oil companies like BP, Total and Shell are actively engaged and even subsidised by European governments to acquire huge amounts of land in Argentina to frack for oil when fracking isn’t allowed by those same governments in their home country. This is a direct continuation of colonial systems of oppression and extraction of resources. Western countries do not apply the same standards to their projects in other countries as they do in their own backyard. This allows them to extract cheaply and enrich themselves at the expense of front-line communities that suffer the consequences of these practises.

What can Western-based activists do to support frontline struggles in solidarity?

There is a direct link between front-line struggles like the fracking protests in Mendoza and Western countries. Companies based or owned by Western countries are the ones doing the damage with the support of their governments.

There are actions that western activists can take at a much lesser cost than front-line communities  because they are closer to the headquarters of those perpetuating colonial systems and less at risk of persecution for their activism.

European activists for example must organise to force multinational companies to stop climate colonialism. They must get in touch with front-line communities that are protesting destructive extraction processes like fracking and support them by bringing the protest to the companies’ and complicit governments’ doorsteps.

And we know this kind of global solidarity works. Have a look at this inspiring video from the Shale Must Fall campaign in Ireland. If you are a front-line community facing climate colonialism, get in touch with XR COP to share your story. Tell us how XR groups in Western countries can support your struggle and we will organise to help you in solidarity.

Want to know more about Esteban’s activism? Watch this interview.

Here’s the link to Global Witness, an organisation that documents violence against environmental defenders.

Want to help?

XR COP is fundraising to help groups in frontline communities (mostly in Africa) organise actions on World Water Day to bring attention to water pollution due to mining and other economic activities as well as the lack of access to clean water.

We aim to fund all the 20+ groups that have applied. Help us reach our 10,000 euro target before March 15th!

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Written by Thomas Widrow, reviewed by Esteban Servat.