We Thought It Was Development, But It Was Ecocide

June 27, 2014

Credit: Nnimmo Bassey

Credit: Nnimmo Bassey


Join us on the Ecosocialist Horizons Hour (EHH) for this special exclusive with Nigerian activist-poet Nnimmo Bassey on the bloody politics of oil extraction.

In this uncompromising analysis of the Niger Delta, where the life expectancy rate is a miserable 42 years, architect, writer and environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey shares his thoughts on a massive oil extraction project that is doing nothing for the local population but poisoning and polluting the soil on which they live, the water they drink and the air they breathe.

Bassey chaired Friends of the Earth International from 2008 through 2012 and was Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action for two decades. In this exclusive segment, he not only gives us razor-sharp commentary from the ground but also shares some of his groundbreaking poetry, including the epic “We Thought it Was Oil, but it Was Blood.”

Ecosocialist Horizons Hour is your frontline report on the global ecological crisis and the struggle for a livable world. EHH is the only source connecting the dots between Empire, Capitalism, Ecological Collapse, and the movements to rebuild humanity’s severed connection with the natural world.

EHH is not meant for the faint of heart. Join us with courage, spirit, and a bit of humor that is needed to answer the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced.

WE THOUGHT IT WAS OIL, BUT IT WAS BLOOD

The other day
We danced on the street
Joy in our hearts
We thought we were free
Three young folks fell to our right
Countless more fell to our left
Looking up,
Far from the crowd
We beheld
Red hot guns

We thought it was oil
But it was blood

We thought it was oil
But this was blood

Heart jumping
Into our mouths
Floating on
Emotions dry wells
We leapt with fury
Knowing it was’t funny
Then we beheld
Bright red pools

We thought it was oil
But it was blood

We thought it was oil
But this was blood

Tears don’t flow
When you are scarred
First it was the Ogoni
Today it is Ijaws
Who will be slain this next day?
We see open mouths
But we hear no screams
Standing in a pool
Up to our knees

We thought it was oil
But it was blood

We thought it was oil
But this was blood

Dried tear bags
Polluted streams
Things are real
Only when found in dreams
We see their Shells
Behind military shields
Evil, horrible evil gallows called oilrigs
Drilling our souls

We thought it was oil
But it was blood

We thought it was oil
But this was blood

The heavens are open
Above our head
Toasted dreams in flared
And scrambled sky
A million black holes
In a burnt sky
But we know our dreams
Won’t burst like crude pipes

We thought it was oil
But this was blood

We thought it was oil
But this was blood

This we tell you
They may kill all
But the blood will speak
They may gain all
But the soil will RISE
We may die but stay alive
Placed on the slab
Slaughtered by the day
We are the living
Long sacrificed

We thought it was oil
But it was blood

We thought it was oil
But this was blood

—Nnimmo Bassey