Dying for Oil

Last November, Nigeria's military government executed nine political activists who were attempting to stop the destruction of the Niger River delta by oil development. The most prominent victim was Ken Saro-Wiwa, a writer, a former commissioner of education, and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Aaron Sachs develops a broad perspective on this tragedy by examining Saro-Wiwa's work—both political and literary. Sachs also discusses the activities of Royal/Dutch Shell, the company responsible for most of Nigeria's oil production; he reports that Shell collaborated with the government in an effort to suppress local opposition to the drilling. In Sachs's analysis, one of Saro-Wiwa's greatest achievements was his realization that environmental and human rights abuses are linked. Consequently, the only sure way to protect either the environment or basic civil rights, is to protect both.