Photo Opportunity: Pink Stalinist Public Art Parade joins the global Stop Esso campaign: 7.30 am, 20/06/02, Centenary Square. (Click on the thumbnails to see full size pictures)

Forward March…

… Against Esso

As you would expect from any piece of outdoor public statuary, the Forward March parade in Centenary Square have strong views on climate change. Stuck out there all day, with nothing but the company of pigeons and passers by, exposed to the elements, wet when it rains and roast when it’s dry. Naturally, they’ve noticed the change in the climate over the last twenty years – 6 of the hottest years on record during the nineties, the milder winters and the unpredictability of a climate that brings hot, dry Aprils and sodden Mays – not to mention floods, cyclones and acid rain.

And they’ve had enough. Today, they join the global StopEsso campaign(1). Supported by Birmingham Friends of the Earth, they will be using their prominent position to draw attention to the petrol giant Esso (Exxon Mobil)’s shameful history of action on climate change. As the most profitable company on Earth – more than 12 billion pounds profit in 2000 – Esso are hugely influential, and they’re not afraid to use that influence. They attacked the Kyoto agreement, the world’s only international agreement on stopping climate change, taking out full page adverts in newspapers to turn US public opinion against it. They contributed to ex-oil man George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, an investment which paid off when George Bush had the British scientist Dr. Bob Watson sacked from his post as Head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr. Watson is an outspoken supporter of quick action on global warming.(2) They have in the past funded scientific organisations to argue against climate change, including the American Petroleum Institue which planned to recruit and train "independent scientists" without any track record of participation in the climate debate to undertake media work against established climate science and the Kyoto Protocol.

What’s more, Esso, alone of the major oil companies, has backed away from any commitment to clean, renewable energy, dropping their investment in solar cell technology in the early nineties. They make great play of their ‘cleaner’ fuel technologies, but the fact is that these are still petrol based technologies, and still release carbon dioxide, the major climate change gas. They’ve made a great fuss about the increased efficiency of their factories and refineries – which are devoted to extracting petrol, source of the major cause of climate change.

The StopEsso campaign is asking people and organisations to boycott Esso until Esso take three steps toward global responsibility:

  • Stop using their money to buy political decisions about the environmental dangers which threaten us all.
  • Stop the campaign of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Esso's science is as trustworthy as tobacco companies' research into cancer.
  • Follow the lead of other oil companies and start putting some of their money into clean, renewable energy.

Upraised Arm, V-Necked Jumper Man at the front, official spokestatue, said

"We represent the people of Birmingham – quite literally! We’re tired of standing here doing nothing all day while the world’s climate changes: sure, it’ll mean people all over the world will be starved as their crops fail in the heat, and their homes and fields will be flooded as the sea level rises, but nobody stops to thinks of us statues, stuck outside all the time. We want Esso to face up to climate change, and start taking some responsibility for the damage they’re doing to public statues – and people – everywhere.’



Editor's Notes

(1) StopEsso is a coalition of Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and People and Planet. Media Briefings on the campaign to boycott Esso can be found at

(2) A full account of Bob Watson's sacking is available from the Guardian's online archive,4273,4398046,00.html