On July 27, two Shell vessels departed from Seattle, en route to the Arctic's Beaufort and Chukchi seas -- and the fragile ecosystems that lay within. The oil company plans to begin exploratory drilling there, putting the area at deadly risk. Finally, environmental activists have said "no more." They -- with scientists -- will travel to the Arctic, backed by state-of-the-art technology, to determine what is at risk, and to keep a watchful eye on the careless oil corporation.
Shell's Kulluk and Noble Discoverer began their trek mere hours after Greenpeace Senior Oceans Campaigner Jackie Dragon announced, "Shell has spent $4 billion buying its way into the Arctic, but now a global movement is mobilizing to protect this region for good."
Dragon spoke her words as she stood in solidarity with activists and scientists aboard Greenpeace ship Esperanza, which is now beginning its own trip to the Arctic.
"While America suffers the impacts of global warming from Florida to Texas," she continued, "Shell wants to exploit melting sea ice in the Arctic to drill for more fossil fuels. We're on our way up to Alaska's pristine waters with hundreds of thousands of others to draw a line in the ice and say 'no further.' This is now one of the defining environmental battles of our age."
When the Esperanza and its crew arrive at the Chukchi drill sites, cutting-edge submarines will accompany it; they will document the risk factors involved with Arctic oil drilling from the sea floor upward. Also coming along will be an observational drone (a major shift, as drones have previously been largely thought of as the de facto eyes and ears of the military and Big Business). Rigid-hulled inflatable boats -- often used by the U.S. Navy -- will also be used by Greenpeace activists.
"The Arctic needs independent eyes on what Shell is doing," said Dragon. "There is simply too much at stake to trust Big Oil's atrocious safety record in a delicate and pristine ecosystem."
Tapio Laakso, campaign manager of Greenpeace in Finland, noted, "Oil companies know full well that an oil spill off the Alaskan coast would devastate the environment and prove impossible to clean up."
Since Greenpeace launched a global 'Save the Arctic' campaign a couple weeks ago, 200,000 people have reportedly joined in standing against Shell's tampering with the Arctic. They call for a ban on both oil drilling and unsustainable fishing in Arctic waters.
Though Shell - which recently caused one of the worst oil spills in years - is, in all likelihood, indeed moving forward with its drilling plan (having just fulfilled one of the last steps required to do so), protests are expected to continue, and activists will be persistent.
Though the oil corporation has gotten a federal district judge to file an injunction barring Greenpeace from interfering with drilling operations, the environmental activist group seems to have bold words in response:
"We know there is an injunction in place," Dragon acknowledged. "But we will act in accordance with what we think is in the best interests of the planet. It isn't something that's going to stop us. All they are doing is emboldening us to find better ways to get the word out."
Photo: Arctic sea life like this will face great danger if Shell begins to drill and tamper with their sensitive environment. Greenpeace - Save the Arctic