Poison Fire

Poison Fire

2008, Environment  -   55 Comments
Ratings: 8.55/10 from 324 users.

The Niger Delta is an environmental disaster zone after fifty years of oil exploitation. One and a half million tons of crude oil has been spilled into the creeks, farms and forests, the equivalent to 50 Exxon Valdez disasters, one per year.

Natural gas contained in the crude oil is not being collected, but burnt off in gas flares, burning day and night for decades.

The flaring produces as much greenhouse gases as 18 million cars and emits toxic and carcinogenic substances in the midst of densely populated areas. Corruption is rampant, the security situation is dire, people are dying. But the oil keeps flowing.

Poison Fire follows a team of local activists as they gather video testimonies from communities on the impact of oils spills and gas flaring.

We see creeks full of crude oil, devastated mangrove forests, wellheads that has been leaking gas and oil for months. We meet people whose survival is acutely threatened by the loss of farmland, fishing and drinking water and the health hazards of gas flaring.

We also meet meet with Jonah Gbemre, who took Shell to court over the gas flaring in his village and won a surprise victory in the court.

Ifie Lott travels to the Netherlands to attend Shell's Annual General Meeting. She wants to ask a simple question: Is Shell going to obey the court order and stop flaring?

More great documentaries

55 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Chris

    You poor have no hope. What with your hopeless corrupt government , and the likes of Shell destroying your land, who is going to solve this massive issue. I suspect this is only the tip of the iceberg across Africa, as greed and corruption by the few and powerful , benefit at the expense of the masses. I normally don't care much about the corruption of Africa because its so endemic , but I felt a bit sorry for these people and the environment.

  2. Leo

    Shell needs to be held responsible. Where is the media?
    Why isn't the Canadian govt. allowing them to mine oil here.
    Accountability for killing people for money.

  3. NonEventHorizon

    If you really want to do something about this then boycott Shell at their petrol pumps, do some research into large buyers of their products and organise boycotts of their products also - write to them and tell them you are boycotting them because of their use of Shell products, petition companies that sell Shell products to remove them from their shelves ... do something!

    No one in Nigeria wants fawning, dripping, sympathy, they want our action.

  4. Jinting

    So, how is this problem going on nowdays?

  5. DustUp

    What carbon neutral fuel could replace it all until a Nikola Tesla type fuel less generator is developed? Ethanol. See alcohol can be a gas dot c om for an education.

  6. DustUp

    Some white men ARE bad. Just like EVERY race including yours. What were the natives tribes doing to each other pre white scum? What did the Blacks do to each other and still are in Africa? When the blacks came to power in Ruwanda did they make things better?

    The worst of the worst are attorneys of any stripe. They converted a useful means of completing a project such as a road, into the modern day Corporation which far too many white and now other colors hide behind as an excuse to screw others to put more dough in their trousers. Now you have them protecting the Corpse causing entities as well as those in govt many of whom are also attorneys. The sad and sorry tale of most everything bad is that we let them. Bad on us.

    In this day and age, there is absolutely no reason to dig up coal or oil or natural gas or uranium for energy. So why do we? Poor govt education controlled by those who also own the media, the banks, and the oil companies among others.

  7. Yeshahy

    When the pale-skin.redneck.edomites either get exterminated off the planet or they fail to be in charge of everything. Then and only then can anything be better. Exploit, rape, pillage, oppress,kill off. The whores of modern day Babylon will do anything for money. The scariest words are 'white.man' ask any Native Person.

    1. Gavin

      And heres me thinking the govt of Ethiopia was black. Stop blaming white people for your corruption.

  8. Kip Keino

    Obfuscate. That's a word that all Shell execs should have spray painted on their kitchen walls in 1 ft. high red letters. It means to deliberately confuse or hide an issue. That's exactly what Shell execs are doing in this sad situation. Shame!

  9. Guest

    Plastics baby.... The first worlds demand them. The consumers demand them. From packaging to technologies. We can't go with out them. You want to improve these peoples lives? Stop creating demand for these goods.

    To be honest though, I'm not willing. Is it heartless? Maybe. But it's better than convincing myself that other people are responsible for the problem and a few good words absolves me of wrong doing.

    The truth is, I enjoy my computer. I enjoy my food being packaged for freshness. I enjoy my phones. Plastics have replaced a lot of other materials to make goods more affordable. Goods that I wouldn't be able to afford otherwise. Even those of us in the lower echelons of first world societies reap the huge benefits. I can't imagine how much poorer my quality of life would be if I didn't have access to cheap plastic goods.

    Now before you judge me for being honest, I'll ask you to look around your house. How many goods are made from plastics? Technology casings (T.V., Microwave)? Dishware? Shampoo bottles? Circuit boards? How about any furniture? Toys? Most of my house is plastic and I am willing to bet most of your house is too.

    1. Icelander

      I agree but really couldn't we have many of these things without the needless destruction of our environment? Can't humans do a little better than this? Do we really need to overrun the planet with our spawn? The answer seems to be that we are incapable of making sane decisions about how we live and so we will (hopefully) soon be gone. Much suffering will end with that great event.

    2. ESGBT

      I don't enjoy it as much as you. Every 80g food is wrapped in 80g plastic. I weigh the amount of plastic my shopping leaves me with on daily basis. I see the mountains of garbage in huge bags on the streets where people like you enjoying plastic live. You and those that are born into plastic blessed world don't know any better and haven't had the luxury of seeing the world without plastic. You think that world was a poorer one but you have no idea. People used to get their milk in glass , the flesh and the bread in paper or the simplest thinnest cellophane bag from the butcher, respectively from the bakery, the groceries from the town's market in a textile bag a basket or from own's garden. People complaining in this video complain about the gas flare not about plastic though. In case you haven't seen the documentary as it seems, watch it again. The gas is flaring not where you live but where they live. Oil companies should be able to extract their oil without flaring the gasses. Which is not something they do. You and they should be able to enjoy your plastic, where, when and in what amount you want but without flaring the gasses. The whole planet will resent it. There'S a price to be paid for the blessings of plastic which the blessed don'T seem to be willing to pay.

  10. coryn

    What a horrible tragedy...... In truth,in all honesty, what can one do but flee, to go, go anywhere, but how is that possible? How does one leave one's home, friends and lands, but what else is there? Just look at history, at what happened .... is happening.... to the AmerIndian, the populations that covered the Americas, once powerful nations reduced to 'reservations' by the foreign invaders, the English, the Dutch, the Spanish, the Germans. There is little justice in this world, but to fight is to lose, that is why I say people must flee the aggressors. What kind of resistance is there? Even sabotage against the aggressors might give some measure of satisfaction, but at what cost?

  11. Daniel Bender

    this is so &%$#'ed up! I am so mad at our inability to live properly.

  12. Chris Ashcroft

    They are waiting for an oil company to value doing the right thing over profits? Never going to happen.

  13. Guest

    Michael Healy, live what the Nigerians have been through and their destroyed livelihoods and we'll see if you can still consider a documentary on shell's strict regard for basic human rights

  14. Voidcode

    This is just a thougth...
    But I can not understand why they choose to only sue.
    Isted of think business opportunity..

    They should try to make a deal with Shell to use/storage/sell the gas the in the own country...

    1. HillaThrilla

      And what would they do with the money? They wouldn't know what to do with it. Living off their land is what they know how to do. The land is what is valuable to them.

  15. smokey

    To me this video shows a careless destruction of a gentle peoples environment beyond belief by Shell one of the richest oil companies in the world but completely bereft of conscience and rotten to the core making excuse after excuse in order to evade the responsibility of simply doing the right thing and cleaning up the mess they should have cleaned up as it occurred.People! unite dont buy any Shell product. the environmental pollution shown here is really everyones problem.

    1. Chris Biggar

      youll find that this sort of corruption isnt exclusive to shell, its everywhere in the corporate world.

    2. hawstom

      Yes. It is not the personal fault of Shell or any person in the
      Shell organization. It is the natural outcome of an experiment gone
      wrong. The publicly traded corporation as evolved today is highly
      dissuaded from moral action. Blinded and apathetic 401k holders,
      everyday Americans, demand only profits from their retirement plans. Do
      they go to meetings? Do they even know what companies constitute their
      retirement funds?

      This is why I moved my remaining funds to a
      not-for-profit credit union account. I am no longer sullied by
      affiliation with such a wicked system. How about you? Are you ready to
      act to save the world? Then hug your kids and move your money.

  16. stepitup_onenotch

    There are some comments below attesting to Shell's benevolence. If Shell is so benovolent then why are they still gas flaring in Nigeria?

  17. Rick Derek Thorpey

    A curse on big business! Let them all rot and suffer eternally.

  18. phillip wong

    Do the Chinese oil companies do **** like these? No... The west is cancer

    1. Joel Wight

      Hahaha using china as an ideal! Wong again Phil!

  19. Peter Christ

    Shell like all multinationals will suffer the wrath of the people, the utter bull**** displayed by people saying the communitees have refused the schools and jobs, seriously ! shove something sharp up your**** and go swim in a pool of vinegar you dumb bunnies, id**ts, "no words are powerfull enough to expose you stupidity" only a good smack in the back of your empty heads you ****heads!

  20. Jewnose

    As an eye witness shell has given the communities around those areas in Africa , schools for the children ,jobs for the communities, man and woman and just to mention if the communities do take jobs they don't allow their woman to take the jobs. Shell has offered hospitals, learning center etc. You name it what ever they have in the developed countries they offered.It is the raciest communities that don't take the offer's. It is the African Extremist/Raciest that say get Shells out because it is a White Mans company they have no idea what Shell is doing for undeveloped countries they need to stop raciest in Africa that is the issue.

    1. sam

      Where are you from?

  21. James Guzman

    As an eye witness shell has given the communities around those areas in Africa , schools for the children ,jobs for the communities, man and woman and just to mention if the communities do take jobs they don't allow their woman to take the jobs. Shell has offered hospitals, learning center etc. You name it what ever they have in the developed countries they offered.It is the raciest communities that don't take the offer's. It is the African Extremist/Raciest that say get Shells out because it is a White Mans company they have no idea what Shell is doing for undeveloped countries they need to stop raciest in Africa that is the issue.

    1. k2k

      James Guzman, it is obvious that you have made these comments out of
      total ignorance. If you are willing and able to make these comments
      after being an eye witness of such disasters, then I must ask you to see
      an optician. Those people are not racists, they are people that want
      their livelihood restored back to it's peaceful state, without the fear
      of environmental hazards caused by Shell. If the Lady in the video that
      said she lost her pregnancy along with 8 other women who also lost
      theirs were to all be your sisters and maybe your daughters, what sort
      of feeling would you have upon those that has caused these disasters to
      the lives of your sisters and daughters? It's all about time, there will
      be a change, peacefully or aggressively.. Things must change.

  22. cvas1986

    Shell is also wanting to drill in the arctic... I pray that enough action is taken to not allow this to happen, and that the executives of Shell find it in their heart not to drill.

    1. Michael Healy

      If anyone is going to drill the Arctic, you would want Shell. This is a hit piece documentary at it's finest. Shell isn't perfect but they have one of the strictest safety policies in existence. I can attest, as a Shell employee, that I spend 2 hours planning and documenting a 15 minute job. Nothing is kicked under the rug. We spent over 100,000 to avoid a wood-pecker nest with a pipeline. Shell even stopped a land owner from killing a bee hive on his property and instead brought in bee keepers to relocate it. Stuff like this happens daily and no one ever makes a documentary about it. But, alas, all documentaries are one sided.

    2. cvas1986

      I saw their safety policies plan on their website about a month ago, and watched the video... and the measures they are taking to prevent an accident (especially like the deep horizon one), and their plan of action if such a blowout were to occur. I believe you that it is a strict safety plan, and that Shell, along with all the other major oil companies, do good things. I just wish that the money used to implement these huge safety plans, and the money used (such as the 100,000 to avoid a woodpecker nest) were actually used toward something bigger to help the environment. Thank you for spending that money to avoid the nest, I just ask the question, why even drill in the first place? I know it's to produce more localized 'American Fuel' and to hopefully keep gas prices somewhat low, but why not then take the money that was going to be used for the arctic exploration/drilling/pipline making for the creation of a biofuels plant? If I had Royal Dutch/Shell's funds (or any oil company -- and I realize that Shell, Exxon-Mobile, BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips etc. are small... much much smaller than Saudi Arabian Oil Co. as well as about 15 others) I would invest zero in arctic exploration, and much much more in biofuels, especilally through algae. In fact I would try to encourage government to try to enact a plan that would have at least B20-B50 biodiesel replace all 100% diesel sales by 2025. I would help the auto industry come up with solutions how they could change their diesel run vehicles in the future... and help finance the changes to current diesel vehicles on the roads to be able to run on B20-B50. Sorry this was a long story... I do realize you are just trying to make a living, and I don't blame you at all... I just wish humanity would think a bit differently. It just seems like wherever there's oil, we'll drill for it... however difficult it is to extract natural gas from the earth (fracking), we'll do it. Why not think "Oh man, we really shouldn't ever drill in the pristine, eco-sensitive area of the arctic -- let's leave that area alone, and instead really invest and switch to biofuels, and plug-in hybrids." Or, "Oh man, this hydrofracking is possible, but since we'd have to use lots and lots and lots of fresh water, and go to all these extreme measures just to get it out of the ground, not to mention, when it's out of the ground, we'd still have to transport it... why don't we just put solar panels and little wind turbines on people's roofs, and why don't factories also use a lot lot lot more solar, wind, and nuclear so they have as minimal carbon footprint as possible." These are the ways I think. But who knows, I too have looked into gas and oil companies for employment as well. I believe they all could be a huge factor in our future sustainability.

    3. madscirat

      You make the mistake of applying human emotions to Shell. Shell is a corporation, it doesn't have any of the feelings or empathy that people do only the same rights as people.

    4. brianrose87

      Michael Healy,

      You're an Environmental Scientist, so you're likely familiar with the Laws of Thermodynamics. In industry terms you're perhaps even more familiar with Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI). EROEI is the difference between calories used and calories gained when a coyote exhausts itself to catch a rabbit. The coyote uses energy (running) to gain energy (rabbit meat) to live another day. That ratio is Energy Returned on Energy Invested.

      As it currently stands fossil fuels take relatively small amounts of effort (energy) to yield/return large rewards (lots of energy).

      To test this, put a gallon of gas in your vehicle, drive it until it stalls, and push it back to the gas station. I promise that after this Herculean effort (it will take you days, even weeks, to push your 1 ton vehicle 25 miles) you will have tremendous appreciation for the lifestyles that fossil fuels afford us.

      A Canadian can consume Mangoes from the tropics because of fossil fuel energy, not because of human intellect (although, human intellect allows us to efficiently burn and concentrate fossil energy the fossil energy itself transports it there).

      Homo sapiens have achieved great things in the modern era, but those great things are dependent upon the burning of ancient plant matter. A truly advanced civilization would scoff at our current situation.

      We're burning through our savings with no plan B once our savings account runs dry.

    5. madscirat

      Thankyou for your unbiased opinion. Perhaps you should note the skin color and economic clout of the countries where Shell saves beehives and wood peckers and contrast it with that of the countries where they destroy communities and kill children. After doing so you should find the reason behind this variance in behavior.

  23. bud oracle

    My heart goes out to them. I kicked my addiction to gasoline in 2004 and did it primarily to stay healthy and in the hope that the world might be abetter place. I hope other energy hogs understand how it frees everyone and give back so much. Even for us it will bring us closer together in our communities and make them healthier.

  24. N

    Very informative.

  25. Ivan

    Hey everyone, guess what? The gas flaring was still going on as of November, 2010. That was the last time I saw the flare with my own eyes in Port Harcourt. It was a vertical pipe that could be seen from a distance of a mile away. The flame was burning constantly, day and night. It was actually in-line with Shell's Pipeline. At the time, I didn't know what I was seeing, or why it was burning all of the time. After seeing this documentary, I now know. Port Harcourt is in Rivers State, and next to Bayelsa State
    This has NOTHING to do with skin color. It has everything to do with profit, like making crazy money every day. EVERYTHING! The amounts of money made are so vast and unimaginable, that it is beyond the comprehension of most people. If all of the profit that was made from one day of what was collected from the Shell Pipeline that has oil flowing from the first source, and was stacked in one place for you to see, you would not be able to count it all in a day, 24 hours. Even if it was in the largest denominations of Euros, Pounds, or Dollars. Forget about it if it were in Niara.
    The level of pollution that existed in the City of Port Harcourt was very very great. Garbage was just about everywhere that you could see. The natural rivers were polluted to a point where you could see garbage floating, and piled up along either bank, as far as your eyes could see. The place smelled terrible. Most of the garbage was plastic products like plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic items that no one wanted. There were piles of garbage along the road side, at entrances to communities, behind stores and shopping centers, and in between communities along the road. Goats and chicken were eating from garbage piles. Restaurants were set up right near piles of garbage that served fresh goat and chicken meat. Yet, this city was nice and clean compared to the cities in Bayelsa State.

  26. Chris Bryer

    The only reason Shell is allowed to get away with this all these years is because they are affecting none white people. If this was killing white people it would be on the news in our courts until it was stopped. But that is not what will happen, what will happen is nothing til it bites whites in the ass. Now get this I am half white and black, my back ground is quite the mix. My mother had three jobs,and give me a wonderful life, however what I have watched all theses years makes me feel sad to have white blood in me. Greed is a sick way to lives. And white have it bad. Im not raciest, I'm just realistic. By B. Paul (A Mother and Grandmother)

  27. David

    Sam Adams, yeah, I'd rather be a caveman than a murderous fool blind to to the beauty, truth and wonder of life on Earth.

  28. David

    This is sad, so sad to see these lovely Nigerians suffering for our greed. This is 175 years after slavery was abolished at last in the USA. We still allow greed and liberty to treat the people and the land like a beast to be raped, plundered and destroyed. This documentary convicts Shell of manslaughter and Eco-terror. It convicts the human race of idiocy and vain weak frailty. The actual savages sit in corporate boardrooms. Even Marx wrote about the indigenous peoples as savages. How wrong he was about that.

  29. Zach Fraser

    you cant bottle up and sell quallity of life we will all pay for this

  30. AkolyteShivaHaru

    I wonder how much energy the fats in the human body can produce? Perhaps a renewable energy source would be to burn the rich to provide for the poor.

  31. Herald

    Nigeria is one of the most corrupt country in the world. I am not surprised that Shell is getting away with murder.

  32. Mercenarry ForHire

    I Strongly agree janko.

  33. Janko Svetlik

    If you want to do something, spread the word, educate your children, vote for "green" government just please don't flame on the net. Because nobody important cares about this forum and thousand of others untill they see the difference on their paycheck..

  34. Teddy Mcd

    Rapacious, as in 'rapacious bastards' - comes to mind.

  35. Guest

    Brilliant little doc, just shocked at my own naivety sometimes. I know the oil companies think they have some sort of divine right to trample the planet and take what they like but when you get to see what that entails...
    I wonder Jack_Burton if you mean what you say, I hope not. Is your cheap energy really worth the price those people are paying?

  36. corporatwig

    Hey! This is great!!!! Lets start doing this up in Alaska! Palin is game.

    We could add huge increase in coal production and burning down here too!

    Yeah, that's it, we'll get rid of all the complainers cause they can't take the heat in the kitchen and we'll have the country to our corporate selves, yeah!

    Then we can start frackin like rock stars.

    1. Jack_Burton

      If you want to live like a cave man. I do not. Cheap energy all the way baby. Al Gore is a fake, a crook and a fool. Carbon credits my a$$. The Earth may indeen be getting warmer, but thats nothing new....

    2. Irishkev

      There have always been renewable energy alternatives,. You have been sold a lie. Is oil cheap? They are doing this to Ireland too. Check out shelltosea or indymedia folks. "They", don't care if the Land and Sea are poisoned as long as they have a product to sell. It is only when all their money cannot buy rice or a potato that they will realise their folly.

    3. Sam Adams

      "If you want to live like a cave man. I do not." Any yet you have no problem with the way these people have been admonished to live. You criticize Al Gore and yet are content to see these oil companies just burn that natural gas that could make a great positive impact by providing these people with much needed electricity. This is not about carbon credits, this is about poisoning a planet. Completely take away what carbon dioxide could do (and is very likely doing) and look at the levels of Mercury in our fish. Look at the sulfur emissions getting belched out that ARE making our oceans more acidic and causing acid rain.

      Global warming (regardless of the cause) is but a fraction of the bigger picture. Your "Can't see it from my house" mentality is not only sickening, it is ignorant on a paramount level and dangerous to the existence of the human race. I can only hope you are getting paid by freedom works (or some other astroturf group) to post cr*p like this.

    4. Sarah Jones

      Get a clue. Ignorant fool.

    5. jsudetic

      wtf are you talking about? Are you actually r*tarded? If you want your opinion to be taken seriously try stating some facts and evidence. Otherwise you are just displaying your ignorance to your opposition. I'm sure others must have told you it's better to remain silent and thought a fool that to speek and remove all doubt.