#ShellNo: The Battle to Save the Arctic Continues
In countless speeches during Barack Obama’s tenure as President, he has invoked why climate change is a grave challenge that we must address immediately. For instance, in a May 2014 interview with Al Roker, he said
“This is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now. Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires — all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak.”
Another of the President’s most powerful speeches for the climate was during the 2015 State of the Union:
Unlike half of all Americans, Barack clearly believes that climate change is caused by human activity. This should be common knowledge, especially since a huge majority of scientists are in agreement, but the U.S. actually leads the world in climate change denial. Seriously, check out this table from a 2014 Pew Research study:
As President Obama’s nears the end of his tenure, solar and wind power are booming, and his administration has preserved a record amount of public land. He also unveiled the Clean Power Plan earlier this week, which will improve public health, drastically cut carbon emissions, and promote energy efficiency and renewables. He even vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have been the proverbial “game over” for our environment.
Right now you must be thinking: “Wow, President Obama is a Climate Hero!” Yes, these are positive achievements and we are making progress in greening our energy system and slowing down the effects of climate change. However, our 44th President fails in one major area: Drilling.
Earlier this year, to the dismay of climate activists throughout the U.S., he opened gas and oil drilling along a large section of the East Coast, from Virginia to Georgia. A few months ago, he also approved Shell’s proposal to drill on Federal lands in the Arctic, citing “rigorous safety standards” and a reputable review process.
What?! But he said that climate change is the issue of our time that we must face immediately. We need to keep 80 percent of fossil fuels in the ground and he has just allowed drilling in two sensitive locations? If we can’t even trust a President who seems to believe in actually saving our environment, while many members of congress are active climate change deniers, how can we stop the fossil fuel industry?
Companies like Shell and ExxonMobil have millions of dollars in profits and entire armies of lawyers and lobbyists influencing Congress to support their destructive interests. All we have is our will, our voice, and our bodies. We held the largest climate protest in history last September and Flood Wall Street the day after. Earlier this year, hundreds of activists blocked Shell’s oil drilling fleet with a flotilla of more than 200 kayaks, halting Shell’s operations for an entire weekend, followed by a mass civil disobedience which shut down the entire port.
Last week, the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, Oregon was the scene of the latest battle to save the climate. Early Wednesday morning, 13 activists hung off the bridge to stop the Fennica, a Shell Icebreaker which was scheduled to travel to the arctic to assist in drilling operations. In solidarity, 60 activists flooded the Columbia River with Kayaks, further interrupting business as usual.
Here are four of the brave activists, telling their reasons why they committed to direct action against Shell:
The protesters were able to block Shell’s operations for an entire day. Early on Thursday, the icebreaker left Portland with police escorts but was blocked at the bridge by protesters. Shell took legal action, and a federal judge in Alaska ordered GreenPeace USA to pay a fine of $2,500 per hour. Soon after, the police forced the kayaktavists from the river, and began to lower the climbers from the bridge. Unfortunately, the Fennica was able to cross under the bridge and continue the journey toward Alaska.
Shell’s drilling in the arctic will continue, as many lawmakers including President Obama don’t truly realize how grave the issue of climate change truly is, despite their speeches and rhetoric. However, this action represents a turning of the tide, as for one 24-hour period, the people were able to stop Shell.
For more pics from last week’s inspiring action, check out this CrowdAlbum and our Storify: