Pic above: Tullamore furniture maker and long-time environmental campaigner Tom Roche, 74, visited Cork City Library on Monday 2nd October to ask that it no longer host the Texaco Children’s Art Competition due to the fossil fuel company’s sponsorship of the event. Picture: Tom Roche
Exhibition continues this year (October/November 2023) to ensure fairness for young artists to have their work on display but not next year (2024) because of the association with fossil fuels
One person can make a big difference when it comes to environmental action – just ask Tom Roche, who has taken on the fossil fuel giants and won.
The 74-year-old furniture maker, artist, and long-time environmental campaigner from Tullamore travelled by train to ask city Cork City Libraries to reconsider hosting an exhibition of the Texaco Children’s Art Competition, due to the sponsor being one of the world’s leading fossil fuel companies.
The long-running competition took place earlier this year, with winning entries then exhibited throughout a number of venues around the country afterwards.
Mr Roche said city librarian David O’Brien met him personally to hear his concerns, and exceeded his expectations.
It is an example of what can be achieved when sides come together to hear each other’s voices and respect each other’s positions, Mr Roche said.
The end result is that while the exhibition would continue this year to ensure fairness for the young artists to have their work on display during October and November, Cork City Libraries will not host it next year because of the association with fossil fuels.
Mr Roche, the founder of conservation and biodiversity group Just Forests in 1989, said he had originally intended to hand in a letter of protest but that things took an unexpected turn for the better when Mr O’Brien invited him to a dialogue.
The letter said: “Just as tobacco companies knew for years that smoking caused lung cancer, fossil fuel companies like Texaco have known for decades that their practices are causing climate change, biological decline and human rights abuses.
“I am calling on you to refuse to host the current Texaco Children’s Art Exhibition on human rights grounds and refuse to host any further fossil fuel-sponsored exhibitions.”
The parties had a “great chat”, according to Mr Roche.
“He said that he would not host the Texaco-sponsored exhibition again but would leave it in situ for this year to be fair to all who worked to make it happen,” he said.
Mr O’Brien said that sustainability is a core value of Cork City Libraries and that it is important to listen to those making bona fide cases.
“To be fair, Texaco have always been excellent at organising the exhibition, with some brilliant people involved. The young artists deserve to have their exceptional talents showcased so we didn’t think it would be fair to them to have it pulled at the last minute this year.
“However, we felt Tom’s arguments were compelling, so next year we won’t host it if sponsored by a fossil fuel company.”
Mr Roche said that there is now a great chance for a new sponsor to get involved in the coming years.
Read Roche’s letter to Cork City Librarian below:
Mr. David O’Brien, Cork City Librarian, Cork City Libraries 57 – 61 Grand Parade, Cork, T12 NT99.
1 October 2023
RE: Texaco-sponsored Children’s Art Exhibition at Cork City Libraries
Dear Mr. O’Brien,
I am writing to politely request that you refuse to host the Texaco Children’s Art Competition exhibition scheduled for display in your Cork City libraries through October/November 2023.
Just as tobacco companies knew for years that smoking caused lung cancer, fossil fuel companies like Texaco have known for decades that their practices are causing climate change, biological decline and human rights abuses. Texaco have spent billions of dollars both in denying that fact and greenwashing their actions.
In 1993, U.S. human rights attorney, Steven Donziger, became part of the legal team for 30,000 indigenous peoples and affected campesinos in the Ecuadorian Amazon seeking justice from the environmental damage and ongoing health crisis caused by oil company Texaco, for deliberately polluting the Amazon Rainforest.
From 1964 to 1990, Texaco purposely dumped over 16 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, spilled more than 17 million gallons of crude oil and left hundreds of open pits with hazardous waste in the forest floor.
In 2000, Chevron purchased Texaco along with everything that came with it – including liability for the destruction Texaco had caused in Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region. In 2011, after nearly two decades of litigation in Ecuador—where Chevron executives had hoped they would win—Chevron was found guilty and ordered to pay $19 billion in damages and for cleanup. They refused to pay up, fled the country and to date have demonised Steven Donziger through payments to corrupt US Judges.
I had the great pleasure of working along side one of your predecessors, the late Hanna O’Sullivan on a number of occasions – May She Rest In Peace. Hanna facilitated me several times as I delivered workshops with my very popular Wood of Life hands-on exhibition, to hundreds of Cork school pupils, in a number of Cork City and County libraries over the years so I very much appreciate the great service public libraries provide.
My last Wood of Life exhibition in Bishopstown Public Library was opened by Micheál Martin in 2010:
“Now more than ever it is important that all members of our society, particularly our young people, have an opportunity to deepen their understanding of global development. The support offered by principals and teachers in encouraging the global perspective among their students is to be acknowledged and applauded. Also, the focus by Just Forest on the curriculum, at primary and post-primary level, will ensure that the message on sustainable development has relevance for our education system and has a lasting impact.”
Mr. Micheál Martin, T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs at the official opening of Just Forests ‘Wood of Life’ Exhibition, Friday, 22 January, 2010, Bishopstown Public Library, Cork City.
(Read the Minister’s full statement at this link: https://justforests.ie/?project=wol-bishopstown-library-cork-2010)
As a result of interventions by myself and others the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Highlanes Gallery in Drogheda and Uillinn – West Cork Arts Centre, have all issued public statements of their decision to refuse to host the Texaco-sponsored children’s art exhibition on human rights/sustainability grounds.
As you know, Cork City libraries is a publicly-funded body and I am wondering what Minister Martin would think of the fact that Cork City libraries is lending its support for a private fossil fuel initiative especially in light of the Irish Government’s Climate Action Plan.
I am calling on you to refuse to host the current Texaco Children’s Art Exhibition on human rights grounds and refuse to host any further fossil fuel-sponsored exhibitions. Our children have a right to a clean, abundant and sustainable future – something Texaco has denied thousands of children in Ecuador.
I would appreciate an acknowledgement of this letter while you consider my request – thank you.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.
I look forward to hearing from you.
ENCLOSURE: SpoArts WASH – Exposing Ireland’s Fossil Fuel Sponsorship Culture