More than 200 environmental activists blocked a terminal in Seattle’s port to protest against Royal Dutch Shell’s imminent plans to begin drilling for oil in the Arctic.
A huge vessel, named Polar Pioneer, is temporarily stationed at the port before heading out to the Arctic to explore for oil. If successful, it will be the first time the multinational has exploited oil in the Arctic.
Demonstrations began on May 18 with a march from Harbor Island to the rig. Campaigners were peaceful and “festive”, according to some reports, with live music and many children present.
The protests came after US President Barack Obama gave Shell approval to begin the project in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s North Slope, in spite of months of protests and criticism from environmental groups and local communities.
Earlier protests by “kayactivists” involved campaigners taking to the water in small boats and surrounding Shell vessels.
Greenpeace Senior Research Specialist Tim Donaghy responded to Obama’s actions: “Instead of holding Shell accountable and moving the country towards a sustainable future, our federal regulators are catering to an ill-prepared company in a region that doesn’t tolerate cutting corners.
“Shell has a history of dangerous malfunctioning in the Arctic while global scientists agree that Arctic oil must stay in the ground if we’re to avoid catastrophic climate change.
“Shell’s exploration plan that the Obama administration just approved is yet another example of federal regulators looking the other way while Shell gets away with shortcomings that could lead to a disaster in the Arctic.”
Campaigners, using the hashtag #ShellNo to spread the message, organised a Kayak Flotilla and another mass direct action from May 16 to May 18 to try to reverse the decision.
“Arctic drilling means destruction for spectacular wilderness, doom for our climate, and disaster for peoples in the global south,” said the website of ShellNo.org.
“We reject the notion that we must sacrifice the wellbeing of future generations to earn a living, and believe that working people and environmentalists can build just, sustainable economies for our port and our world. But we can't rely on business as usual; that's what got us here.”
Critics condemned Obama's hypocrisy over climate change policies, perceiving the Shell decision to be a huge threat to the environment.
Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council Frank Matzner told Mother Jones: “It's a total mystery why the Obama administration and [Interior] Secretary [Sally] Jewell are continuing down this path that is enormously risky, contradicts climate science, and is completely unnecessary to meet our energy goals.”
“It's a dangerous folly to think that this can be done.”
The US government, however, has said that the decision and the drilling process were undertaken “carefully”.
[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]