4 March 2012

The Battle for the Arctic

As NASA reports that satellite data shows the Arctic multi-year ice is dwindling even faster than single-year ice, having more than halved in extent since the 1970’s; and an article in Science highlights the unprecedented speed at which we are acidifying the oceans through CO2 emissions risking a mass extinction of ocean creatures. Oil companies line up to explore the Arctic wilderness for more of the fossil fuels which are responsible for these disasters in the first place.

In today’s OWC I have pulled together excerpts from the blogs of Greenpeace activists from New Zealand who last week boarded a drilling ship chartered by Shell with which they intend to explore for oil in the Arctic this coming summer.

23 February: right now Greenpeace activists are stopping a Shell drill ship from leaving the Port of Taranaki in New Zealand for the Arctic. Climbers - including actress Lucy Lawless - have scaled the rig's drill derrick and set up camp, equipped with enough gear to last for days. They are asking you to join them - by sending a message to Shell demanding it stays out of the Arctic.

Here's why: this is an industry that sees its own demise on the horizon. To survive it is prepared to go to the ends of the earth and take extreme risks in search of the last drops of oil. From the Great South Basin below New Zealand to the far reaches of the Arctic, nothing is sacred to Big Oil. So we have to act.

Shell's planned incursion into the Arctic signals the beginning of an Arctic oil rush that could cause irreparable harm to this fragile frozen world and its inhabitants. A major oil spill in the Arctic would be an environmental disaster. Experts say it would be virtually impossible to clean up, due to the harsh weather conditions and the sheer lack of vessels and infrastructure in the area. More than 6,000 vessels were pulled in to deal with the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and even so only a meagre 17% of the oil was recovered. The US Coast Guard has made clear there is no way they could deploy thousands of vessels to deal with a blow-out in the Arctic.

The Arctic's already under huge pressure from climate change. Temperatures are rising faster there than anywhere else on earth and the ice is melting rapidly. If we're going to have any hope of keeping a lid on climate change then we have to leave Arctic oil in the ground. We can't watch the ice retreat then watch the oil giants send in their rigs. This is a fight for our survival. That's why we can't let this drill ship get to the Arctic. The stakes couldn't be higher.

Shell and the other oil giants need to hear this message loud and clear from people all around the world - the Arctic is off-limits to your oil rigs.

Day three: it's been a tough couple of days but I'm getting my second wind now - especially seeing how our action - seven kiwis sitting on a drillship - has caused such a roaring avalanche of disapproval to rain down on the big yellow Shell. It's not comfortable up here but our discomfort is a small sacrifice and well worth making to raise so much awareness about what Shell want to inflict on the Arctic and its people.

We are still being buffeted by strong winds but woke to a stunning sunrise and blue sky this morning. Our camp has been getting cosier each day. Solar panels placed to catch the sun and tarps deflect the wind. We have hammocks and sleeping bags filled with instant heat sachets, which takes most of the night chill off.

This has been a fitting first chapter for what will undoubtedly be an epic battle. The battle to save one of the most beautiful, unique and iconic places on earth from the seemingly insatiable greed of the oil industry. A battle to save the world from climate change - the greatest threat we face today.

Throughout this time Shell has tried to say it wants to talk, to explain how it can drill safely in the frozen Arctic, and that there's nothing to worry about. But both common sense and scientific consensus tells us there is no way to safely drill up there in the frozen north. A spill in the icy Arctic seas would be impossible to clean up. And it is no time to talk when aging rust-bucket drill ships like the Noble Discoverer are heading for the Arctic right now. Now is the time for action.

This is just the start of the story. The fight for the Arctic has only just begun. Join us now to finish the job at greenpeace.org/savethearctic.

Locally you can get active with Greenpeace in Norwich and other groups around the region, just go to the Greenpeace groups page, put in your postcode and it will tell you where your nearest group is.

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