Shell vs Greenpeace in Alaskan Arctic

We’re nearing 2 weeks since Greenpeace’s 6-day protest of claiming Shell’s Pacific oil-rig and it appears this may still be a campaign in its infancy. Followers of the environmentalist organisation will have received numerous emails and social media notifications during the build-up to and the course of their protest to keep in touch with the 6 international activists’ progress. They had taken residence on the oil-rig to express disgrace about the American government’s authorisation for the petrol company to crack on with drilling for oil in the Arctic, where risks of oil-spillage could destroy the habitat of already-vulnerable wildlife in a section of the world that so significantly influences the global climate. Although Shell has had the passionate campaigners removed and deprecated for the danger and disruption they caused, Greenpeace is still determined to continue the campaign by raising public funds and spreading the message to, firstly, prevent Shell and other large oil companies from claiming plots of land and ocean for their private business interests and secondly, to support the broader project that Obama is at least trying to push forward, turning the Arctic into a protected area. But are we seeing (counter the warnings from concerned scientists and the discontent of (some of) the public) an abandoning of progress on the part of governments and corporations – for good?


Well, maybe that would be a bit doom-and-gloom. I wouldn’t want to undermine the success of numerous environmental campaigns led by the likes of Greenpeace as well as celebrities, members of the Royal Family and individual politicians worldwide. The discussed NGO, after all, prides in having helped (back in 1998) make Antarctica a World Park where oil-drilling and other means of excessive resource grabbing are prohibited. Looking back at their success, they will carry this devotion into their current campaign to save the Arctic and there is no small degree of hope that the world will listen and stand up to the all-powerful energy corporations. Yet, where there’s idealistic hope, there is also the fact that the American Congress has dismissed Obama’s proposal to not allow Shell’s Arctic drilling and quite strongly proposed their reasons for wanting Shell to proceed.

If governments were really making progress to meet their many targets to fight climate change and destructive pollution then they would consider historical mistakes as much as Greenpeace considers their success: BP’s 2010 oil-spill still has its legacy bobbing around the Gulf of Mexico at 10 million gallons of oil after 5 years, has caused devastation for the marine life and killed workers on the disaster’s date and Shell – the company that the Congress have just let sail into the Arctic Circle – are responsible themselves for a 2012 oil-spill in the Chukchia Sea, Alaska. In 2010 the US were, quite rightly, upset that an international company was running their business so irresponsibly, but maybe sometimes governments can’t let their own hypocrisy records stand in the way of their own needs for oil and energy, especially if the Arctic at least looks like a place where no-one or no creature lives. Instead, let history repeat itself. Apparently there won’t be any risks with Shell this time.


So, with Shell having won their rights to drill in an area of ice that’s not only vulnerable to melting and being infected with destructive oil but is available because of its vulnerability in melting away, how much can we depend on governmental powers and ourselves as a race, for that matter, to reduce our consumption of harmful energy sources? Was the Antarctic World Park campaign a success at an epoch when shared passions to protect the planet were a novelty and, now that time has moved on with a global financial crisis on (almost) everyone’s agenda, nobody actually gives a shit. Shell were attracted to the apparent 15 billion barrels of oil available and it’s not like the company were alone in seeing the benefits there.

As part of the Congress’s reasons for supporting Shell’s access to Arctic oil, they expressed a need for the corporation to create more money and produce more energy for people to consume, which, of course, completely defeats the objective of actually cutting down on excessive energy in the first place. The Congress, in their wider campaign against anything that poor old Obama puts forward, states how any alternative energy source is out of the question when insufficient for creating jobs and profit; a problem that Shell milked on last week in claiming that the Greenpeace activists were disrupting their business targets. Jobs are naturally important, but these political decisions are raising growing concerns, at least in my mind, about this obsessive mentality of putting economic growth before the health of the planet and the health of the planet, even if agreeing with climate change sceptics, is at stake in terms of pollution and the diminution of resources and wildlife. We humans can’t take our money to the grave but, at this rate, we’re heading towards creating a graveyard to which we can only take money.


Sorry, I use the first person plural pronoun too generically. I can’t say the Congress are right when they claim it is rather up to the individual’s consummation habits than a multi-national corporations’ oil-drilling to change the environment, but Greenpeace continues to demonstrate what impact people-power can make. Greenpeace are inviting members of the public from all over the world to support their Arctic Campaign by making donations and, for those interested in adding their individual impact, the NGO’s website will have updates throughout this summer on where the campaign will be taken next. That said, unless their voice grows to an absolute maximum, the scary truth is, as this authorisation has displayed, that we risk (and let’s read that word as something more serious than low-risk) witnessing another disaster at the hands of irresponsible business.

(All images sourced by Flickr)


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