Eye on the Amazon

The DiCaprio Factor: Oscar Winner Speaks Out Against Peruvian Oil Spills

Photo credit: Denis Pashanase / CORPI-SL

The DiCaprio Factor: Oscar Winner Speaks Out Against Peruvian Oil Spills The saga of Peru's Amazonian oil spills continues, more than a month after the first rupture in Chiriaco. Given increasing media coverage by AJ+ and Amazon Watch, the situation had received some international attention. But the fight for clean-up and accountability went to a new level on Monday, as Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio spoke out for the cause to his 35 million social media followers.

To date, the response has been impressive: Over 22,000 retweets and likes on Twitter, almost 35,000 likes & shares on Facebook, and over 200,000 (!!) likes on Instagram.

But how does that influence the emergency in the Peruvian Amazon? The posts encourage people to visit Amazon Watch's action page and send an email to the Peruvian Prime Minister, Pedro Cateriano, demanding a proper response to Amazon oil catastrophe. In the two days since Leo's social media posts, the number of emails has jumped from roughly 8,000 to over 13,000. To the degree to which the Peruvian state cares about its international image, this is a powerful signal that they aren't looking so good right now.

Perhaps more impactful, however, was the extensive media coverage Leo's actions generated in Peru and beyond. Within hours of his posts, key Peruvian outlets like El Comercio, La República, Correo, and La Mula had posted articles to their websites. International wire services like Associated Press and Agence France-Presse also wrote about it, ensuring global coverage. Journalists calling the government for comment, and the resulting stories, help ramp up the pressure for the government to pay attention to these environmental calamities out in the rainforest.

Alone, all of this might not make huge a difference. But the action dropped right as indigenous leaders were continuing their campaign for real solutions to the crisis. Just as Leo's concern was hitting the Peruvian press, AIDESEP (the national indigenous federation of the Peruvian Amazon) was meeting with the state-run oil company, Petroperu. AIDESEP re-emphasized the demands of the affected indigenous communities, including food, water, emergency health care, and that the pipeline be shut down until corroded tubes are replaced.

And these are precisely the moments when international solidarity can make a difference – when it backs-up grassroots actions for rights and environmental justice. In this case, it provides critical support for indigenous activists and communities who are demanding immediate clean up of the oil spills and true accountability by PetroPeru and all responsible for the neglect that led to these disasters. In recognition of the support, AIDESEP thanked Leo through a blog.

That appreciation can be extended to everyone who has sent an email to the Peruvian government or donated to the Peru Amazon Oil Disaster Relief Fund. If you haven't taken those actions yet, there is still time! We hope you'll join Leonardo DiCaprio and Amazon Watch in supporting Amazonian indigenous peoples as they defend the lungs of the planet. It's time to keep oil in the ground in the Amazon!

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