ecology and spirituality

TotalEnergies: Environmentalists chain themselves to Parisian footbridge to halt EACOP

By Damien Glez

Posted on June 6, 2023 10:15

 © Image by Damien Glez
Image by Damien Glez

On 25 May, environmental activists blocked a footbridge in Paris to protest against French group TotalEnergies’ oil projects in Uganda and Tanzania.

A recurring criticism levelled at the most committed ecologists is the almost “religious” nature of their militant radicalism, which is at times fundamentalist, flagellating, and often punitive. On 25 May, the notions of ecology and spirituality came together in a more formal way: a happening in Paris was organised by Extinction Rebellion Spiritualités and GreenFaith.

The first of the two organisations is a spiritual branch of “Extinction Rebellion,” an international social-ecologist movement that advocates the use of non-violent civil disobedience. The second is an interfaith NGO based in the US, engaged in the fight for climate justice.

The day’s commando team included two Protestant pastors, two rabbis, a Muslim thinker, a Buddhist master and a bishop emeritus.

The aim of the operation was to denounce the oil mega-projects of the French group TotalEnergies in Africa, particularly in Uganda and Tanzania. Some 40 activists chained themselves to the Léopold Sédar-Senghor footbridge overlooking the Seine, the river that runs through the French capital.

The blockade lasted 1,443 seconds in reference to the 1,443km of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), the crude oil pipeline planned for East Africa.

The date was chosen for the environmental intervention because the French multinational corporation was due to hold its annual general meeting of shareholders that weekend. The slogan Dans les tuyaux de Total coule la mort (Death flows through Total’s pipelines) on a placard was in reference to the line Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine (Under the Mirabeau Bridge lies the Seine) by the poet Guillaume Apollinaire.

The EACOP project is colossal. It involves the world’s longest heated oil pipeline, which will snake through several of Tanzania’s protected natural areas, “twice the length of the Seine,” according to campaigners.

In Uganda, it is the Tilenga project – linked to the first one – that is being denounced by activists, drilling of 419 wells, a third of which will be in the Murchison Falls natural park.

TotalEnergies’ opponents claim that the project will undermine climate justice, human rights, and biodiversity, with the alleged greedy complicity of African leaders, in order to preserve the Western way of life.

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