Books, articles, reports and films about the corporate control of natural resources, plus links to publications and websites where you can find reliable information about related issues, as well as campaign groups taking action on them.
Robert Engler, The Politics of Oil: A Study of Private Power and Democratic Directions.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.
“This is a study of the relation of power and responsibility. The illustration throughout is the private government that controls most of the petroleum resources of the world and the impact of this control upon American political life. The more impelling issue, however, is the drift and distortion of democratic society in an industrial environment.”
Ground-breaking in its day, The Politics of Oil, outlines Robert Engler's thesis that the structure and activities of big oil corporations merge to form a 'private government' which impacts not only in economic terms as a result of its control of oil, but also in social and political terms. He explored the relationship between oil and 'public government', in America and within 'foreign policy', revealing how this particular manifestation of corporate power undermines democracy.
Roger Moody, Rocks and Hard Places: The Globalization of Mining
Zeb Books, 2007. ISBN: 9781842771754
In Rocks and Hard Places Roger Moody peels back the public relations mask of mining corporations to reveal the heavy burden imposed on communities, local economies and environments by their activities. He documents the inspiring resistance to mining projects in the north and the south, at a time when mining corporations are expanding their operations across Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Robert Vitalis, America's Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier
Stanford University Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780804754460
"America’s Kingdom debunks the many myths that now surround the United States’s “special relationship” with Saudi Arabia, or what is less reverently known as "the deal": oil for security. Taking aim at the long-held belief that the Arabian American Oil Company, ARAMCO, made miracles happen in the desert, Robert Vitalis shows that nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is that oil led the U.S. government to follow the company to the kingdom. Eisenhower agreed to train Ibn Sa’ud’s army, Kennedy sent jets to defend the kingdom, and Lyndon Johnson sold it missiles. Oil and ARAMCO quickly became America’s largest single overseas private enterprise.
Beginning with the establishment of a Jim Crow system in the Dhahran oil camps in the 1930s, the book goes on to examine the period of unrest in the 1950s and 1960s when workers challenged the racial hierarchy of the ARAMCO camps while a small cadre of progressive Saudis challenged the hierarchy of the international oil market. The defeat of these groups led to the consolidation of America’s Kingdom under the House of Fahd, the royal faction that still rules today.
This is a gripping story that covers more than seventy years, three continents, and an engrossing cast of characters. Informed by first hand accounts from ARAMCO employees and top U.S. government officials, this book offers the true story of the events on the Saudi oil fields. After America’s Kingdom, mythmakers will have to work harder on their tales about ARAMCO being magical, honorable, selfless, and enlightened." The Foreword to America's Kingdom can be read here.
Andrew Rowell, James Marriott, and Lorne Stockman, The Next Gulf: London, Washington and Oil Conflict in Nigeria
Robinson Publishing, 2005. ISBN-10: 1845292596, ISBN-13: 978-1845292591
Ten years after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa by the Nigerian state hand in hand with Shell, this book explores the next stage of intervention and plunder in Nigeria by multinational oil companies and the UK and US governments. With reference to the long history of colonialism and neo-colonialism in Nigeria, the authors examine a growing “scramble for African resources”, and a new “Atlantic Triangle” dealing in the exploitation of oil and gas, and committing the population to continued environmental destruction, human rights abuse and poverty.
You can download chapters of the book here.
Ken Saro-Wiwa, A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary
Penguin Books Ltd, 1995
Published one month after his execution by the Nigerian military dictatorship in collaboration with Shell, Ken Saro-Wiwa's diary, written whilst imprisoned, details the genocide of his Ogoni people at the hands of Shell and the Nigerian military dictatorship. Ken Saro-Wiwa was a writer, poet and leader of MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People) which opposed Shell and the environmental devastation and human rights abuse which the company propagated in the Niger Delta. A Month and a Day is an Ogoni declaration as much as the recollections of Saro-Wiwa.
Ike Okonta & Oronto Douglas, Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights and Oil
London: Verso, 2003. ISBN: 1 85984 473 1
A damning indictment of Shell's environmental and human rights record in Nigeria, exposing the stark contrasts between the company's PR and realities on the ground. Okonta is a Nigerian journalist and Douglas a lawyer focused on environmental justice issues.
Jon Sack, Iraqi Oil for Beginners
Jon Sack, 2007.
A comic book detailing the central place struggles over oil have had in the last century of Iraqi history. Stretching back to the British invasion and occupation of Basra in 1914, beautiful illustrations draw parallels with the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, cover the movement of Iraq's borders and the divying out of its oil to multinational companies. Sack says of his motivations for drawing the book: "Below the surface of the occupation there's the maggoty corporate interest...It's sort of like a mathematical formula. I felt like this lineage needed to be put down on paper and become accessible."
Helena Paul, Ricarda Steinbrecher, Devlin Kuyek and Lucy Michaels, Hungry Corporations: Transnational Biotech Companies Colonise the Food Chain
Zed Books, 2003. ISBN: 1 84277 301 1
Hi-tech agro-chemical and genetic engineering companies dominate the food chain. Hungry Corporations examines how they have got to such a position: co-opting academic research, manipulating public opinion, gaining increasing influence over governments and regulators, and ensuring that WTO and World Bank processes and policies are beneficial to their project.
Walden Bello, Food Wars
New York: Verso, 2009. ISBN: 9781844673315
Investigating the causes of the global food crisis of 2006-8, Bello dissects the problems of world trade, structural adjustment, and the rule of agri-businesses. He reveals how, for example, agricultural self-sufficiency in Africa has been replaced with hunger, with the continent now a net importer of food. This is a key text for understanding how corporate control over land and food supply leads to crisis.
Vandana Shiva, Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge.
South End Press, 1997.
In Biopiracy, Shiva sets out to reveal how GM, the cloning of organisms, and patents represent "the ultimate expression of the commercialization of science and the commodification of nature", in which "life itself is being colonized" by multinational corporations.
Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply
South End Press, 1999. ISBN: 1 84277 025 X
Vandana Shiva charts how corporate agriculture, with genetic engineering, industrial processes, and patents on life, has impacted on small farmers, biodiversity and the environment, and the quality of our food.
Richard Whittell and Kshitihij Urs, Resisting Reform? Water Profits and Democracy
Sage, 2009. ISBN: 9788178298740
A wide range of people and organisations, united by either a belief in market-based economics or a financial stake in the water business or both, are convinced that water should primarily be treated as a commodity to be bought and sold so that all water services can cover their costs. To this end, they advocate private ownership of water supply with the underlying objective of profit generation.
Unfortunately, the benefits of such reasoning are skewed, and while it has been put into practice around the world, many people have come out as losers in this bargain. Resisting Reform? Water Profits and Democracy critically examines the attempts that have been made to ‘reform’ Bangalore’s water supply and situates them in their global and national context and in that of the city’s broader development. It looks at how the ‘reforms’ have entered government policy and how they have been opposed, principally by the many poor in the city. This book also describes how involving private players is not the best way to ensure an equitable water supply and that treating water as a commodity is a dangerous principle to adopt for running any water service, be it public or private.
Maude Barlow, Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water
New Press, January 2008. ISBN: 9781595581860
Scientists call them "hot stains"—the parts of the earth running out of clean, drinkable water. They now include northern China, large areas of Asia and Africa, the Middle East, Australia, the Midwestern United States, and sections of South America and Mexico. How did the world's most vital natural resource become so imperiled? And what must we do to pull back from the brink? Essential reading for all who care about the planet, Blue Covenant is the most up-to-date look at the global water crisis and its impact on humans and the natural world.
See this site for some excerpts.
Vandana Shiva, Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit
South End Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780896086500
Another book on the ever popular subject of water—can't do without it, which means there's money to be made. Using the international water trade and industrial activities, such as damming, mining, and aqua-farming, as her lens, Shiva exposes the disenfranchisement of the world's poor as they are stripped of rights to a precious common good. Shiva shines a light on activists fighting corporate maneuvers to convert this life-sustaining resource into more gold for the elites. She calls for a movement to preserve water access for all.
London Mining Network, An Introduction to Coal Mining
An introductory briefing, produced by the London Mining Network in September 2010, outlining the harmful impacts of coal mining on agricultural communities, Indigenous Peoples, water, air and health.
Corporate Watch, Corporate Carve Up: UK Companies in Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq included the military capture of Iraqi oil, an operation in which US and UK oil companies played key planning and decision making roles. Similarly, US and UK private companies were heavily involved in the occupation which came after: from private military and security corporations to companies receiving 'reconstruction' contracts. The seizure of Iraqi oil wealth helped pay for these contracts. This report traces how UK companies have profited from the occupation of Iraq.
PLATFORM, Crude Designs: The Rip-off of Iraq's Oil Wealth
A 2005 report exposing the US State Department led policy to transfer Iraq's oil wealth into the hands of multinational oil corporations. Contemporary oil policy outlined the allocation of long-term contracts, covering at least 64% of Iraq's oil reserves, to foreign oil companies facing rates of return between 42% and 162%, loosing the Iraqi population hundreds of billions as a result of this war-backed privatisation.
Justice in Nigeria Now!, Gas Flaring in Nigeria: An Overview
A briefing on the scale and impacts of gas flaring in Nigeria, with a particular focus on the activities of Chevron.
The Reclaiming Public Water Network (eds), Water Democracy: Reclaiming Public Water in Asia.
A collection of essays by those fighting the privatisation of water across Asia, published in 2007. Topics include the role of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in promoting water privatisaion, and exploration of alternative, public models of water supply and management.
Jennifer Franco and Jun Borras, Towards a Broader View of the Politics of Global Land Grabbing: Rethinking Land Issues, Reframing Resistance, May 2010
The increased enclosure of 'non-private' lands by commercial interest - national and transnational - for industrial food and agrofuel production, and the resulting struggles over land use and property relations, is here examined. The recent "global land rush" is "likely to lead to massive enclosure and dispossession". The authors deploy a critical perspective towards mainstream development rhetoric of 'land governance' which suggests that it is possible to create 'win-win arrangements'.
Arundhati Roy, The Greater Common Good
"In India over the last ten years the fight against the Sardar Sarovar Dam has come to represent far more than the fight for one river...From being a fight over the fate of a river valley it began to raise doubts about an entire political system. What is at issue now is the very nature of our democracy. Who owns this land? Who owns its rivers? Its forests? Its fish? These are huge questions."
With poetic lyricism, Roy lays out the case against the Sardar Sarovar project, the biggest of thirty dams on the Narmada river in Gujarat, India. The project directly displaced more than 320,000 people, and affected many more. Within a high-drought rural area, water was re-directed for urban consumers. Roy addresses key questions over the control of natural resources, and highlights the connection of this to political power within the context of 'development' in India.
Walden Bello and Mara Baviera, Food Wars, Monthley Review, July-August 2009
An article based on Walden Bello's book of the same title, exploring the root causes of the 2006-08 food crisis.
Centre for Constitutional Rights, Factsheet: Shell's Environmental Devastation in Nigeria
This accessible and easily distributed fact sheet reveals Shell's disasterous record in Nigeria: from gas flaring and oil spills, to corruption and complicity in human rights abuses.
A wealth of information, case studies and briefings divided by mineral type, company, and country, with a special focus on the themes of women, workers, money, law and climate change. Full of information direct from mining-affected communities.
The London Mining Network is an alliance of groups working to expose the role London Stock Exchange listed companies, British funders and the British government play in perpetuating disastrous mining projects around the world. Their website is full of articles, briefings, case studies and call-outs, many of which are full of information gathered on the ground at the mining projects investigated.
Money to Metals tracks global mining deals and provides one of the most comprehensive databases of resources and information on the topic.
Unravelling The Carbon Web is a project by london-based group PLATFORM, working to "reduce the environmental and social impacts of oil corporations, to help citizens gain a say in decisions that affect them, and to support the transition to a more sustainable energy economy." It analyses the complex network of sectors and institutions that make up the oil and gas infrastructure: from finance to cultural institutions. Issues covered include resource sovereignty, oil and the financial sector, and the 'resource curse'. There is a specific focus on Nigeria, Iraq, the former Soviet Union and London.
Campaign to bring Chevron-Texaci to justice over extreme environmental damage, and associated health and social impacts, brought about by their drilling for oil in the Amazon between 1964 and 1990. The company dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, spilled roughly 17 million gallons of crude oil, and left hazardous waste in hundreds of open pits dug out of the forest floor, contravening Equadorian law.
Remember Saro-Wiwa is a coalition of organisations and individuals which aims to create a Living Memorial to activist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa in London, using art and activism to raise awareness and campaign for environmental and social justice in the Niger Delta.
A website from the UK Tar Sands Network and Indigenous communities affected by tar sands oil development in Canada, targetting governments, companies, banks and investors to stop tar sands extraction.
Stories of Environmental Injustice is an online project by Photojournalist Harmit Kambo and grassroots movement So We Stand. The section on opencast coal mining in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, is filled with photo, video and audio testimony from those living next to the site.