The title for this case and most of its information has been taken from urgewald’s documentary on the conflict .
In 2015, ExxonMobil, CNOOC and Hess made a huge oil discovery in the Stabroek block, 190km off the coast of Guyana. The discovery has since been followed by dozens of additional significant finds . To put the discoveries in context, 18% of the total oil and gas and 32% of the oil discovered globally since 2015 have been found in Guyana . Since the first discovery, ExxonMobil has already started to produce oil in several wells; it is developing new wells and continues to explore more . It is a highly critical development for the company, which expects to extract up to 1.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) from Guyana by 2027, 31.5% of the company's total production (3.8 million boe/d as of the last quarter of 2021) . Exxon’s plans are greatly oversized for Guyana, which only consumes 18,000 boe/d, or 1.5% of its expected production . Campaigners fully know this situation: “Exxon is more dependent on Guyana, than Guyana is on Exxon” [1: min20:45]. “Guyana became a pawn in the game of the beleaguered oil giant’s desperate attempts to stave off financial disaster as the world moves out of the fossil fuel era” .
Activists believe the World Bank (WB) has played a critical role in establishing a local oil and gas sector in record time. They claim the WB illegally pushed ahead with their project days after the government fell in a no-confidence motion [1: min9:00]. Additionally, they claim, the WB wanted to change the Environmental Protection Law [1: min15:10] and write new laws regulating the oil and gas sector. The law firm hired to advise on those legal changes is Hunton Andrews Kurth, “the go-to law firm for ExxonMobil” [1: min15:55]. Campaigners understand the intervention of the World Bank as the latest phase of neocolonial exploitation. They highlight that Guyana has been historically exploited for key strategic resources in each of the colonial phases, first sugar, then bauxite and timber. According to this account, the exploitation of Guyana’s nature and labour has filled the coffins of each of the successive colonial powers dominating the country, first Holland, then France, and lastly Britain [1: min 27:00]. The latest “colonisation attempt” would involve the renewed quest for oil by the US , which largely determines the policies of the WB through its disproportionate voting rights. Campaigners don’t overlook that Exxon also greatly influences US foreign policy, and thus on the WB [1: min23:40]. One of the demands of civil society is to get the WB out of their country: “We don’t need the World Bank here in Guyana” [1: min:38:50].
Guyanese civil society organisations specifically decry the botched Production Sharing Agreement between their government and ExxonMobil. The Guyana government only receives 15% of oil revenue , with royalties standing at 2%, far below the 10 to 25% charged in other countries [1: min7:25]. Ultimately, they believe the oil money will only benefit foreigners and local elites. Their words are crystal clear: “Given that we operate in a system built around neo-liberal capitalism, I can promise you that the oil and gas can flow like the waters of the Kaieteur [Guyana’s iconic waterfall], and those who are poor and dispossessed will remain on the margins of our society, growing poorer, while those who already possess tremendous wealth and control strategic sections of our economy will continue to get richer.” 
Besides the economic grievances, campaigners challenge Exxon’s push to transform Guyana into a petrostate from an ecological perspective. The Organisation for the Victory of the People says the industry “will have catastrophic consequences for our spectacular environment, which is our most precious resource, valuable beyond measure and the true key to our prosperity” . Guyana is unique for its biodiversity richness, both in the ocean and in much of the inland territory covered by the untouched Amazon rainforest. This biodiversity is threatened by potential oil spills from the dangerous deep-water wells exploited by Exxon and by the effects of the climate crisis .
Accordingly, civil society organisations also oppose the project as a “Carbon Bomb” threatening to release four gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere . Guyana is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, specifically sea level rise. Eighty per cent (80%) of the country’s population lives in a narrow strip of land along the coast lying 1.8m below sea level . Less than 25% of the coastline is protected with sea walls, and building the remaining protection would cost $1.6 bn [1: min35:15].
The resistance strategy has mostly taken the shape of three legal challenges to Exxon’s oil and gas, led by Melinda Janki of the Justice Institute Guyana . The first challenge was against the Petroleum Production License granted to Exxon by the government, which was secret up until 10 months after it was signed and which the litigants claimed broke the law because it was signed before the environmental authorisations . A second case was brought against the Environmental Protection Agency, and the court ruled in favour of the litigants shortening the environmental permits from 23 to 5 years . The third case is the first constitutional challenge in the Caribbean against offshore oil and gas extraction based on the constitutional right to a healthy environment. It is brought by a scientist at the University of Guyana and an indigenous Wapichan youth from the Rupununi region . The campaign group A Fair Deal For Guyana - A Fair Deal For The Planet has started an online petition to the Guyana government calling for a moratorium of oil and gas exploration and extraction , and has opened a crowdfunding page to support the legal challenges where it follows the latest news on the cases .
The World Bank's discourse on the environment defends the need to extract the oil to generate sufficient revenues to protect the forest [1: min34:30]. Exxon follows this line and boasts its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes that fund conservation programmes . Other CSR activities include funding education programmes and popular sports events . Alternatively, local organisations reject this transactional view of the environment and demand to leave the oil underground and seek prosperity in a biobased economy leveraging ecotourism [1: min 43.20] and demanding international compensation to protect its biodiversity and carbon sinks [1: min 40:09]. “We have everything that we need in order to be prosperous and peaceful” [1: min43:00]. The economic worldview of local organisations is at the antipodes of the WB “notion of development as economic growth” [1: min36.15]. The Organisation for the Victory of the People ascertains that “in a world of finite resources, the concept of endless growth at the centre of both capitalist and communist industrial ideologies is a flawed one” .