For oil companies, our rights are just another obstacle

Protest Against Repsol in Canary IslandsGreenpeace activists aboard inflatables hold a banner reading 'No Oil Exploration, Yes To Renewables (Prospecciones No, Renovables Si) and approach the 'Rowan Renaissance' drill ship. A Spanish Navy inflatable is on the left. The activists are protesting against the Repsol oil company's plans to drill off the coast of the Canary Islands.11/15/2014 © Arturo Rodríguez / Greenpeace

Once upon a time fossil fuel exploration took place far away, out of sight and out of mind. But as oil and gas giants become ever more desperate for new reserves they’re prepared to drill in places that were previously unthinkable. This isn’t just about the Arctic. If you live in the UK, they’ve secured the right to frack for gas under your house.

In Spain the inhabitants of Lanzarote and Feuereventura, have been learning this to their cost. Their stunning coastline is now threatened by oil company Repsol, who plan to begin drilling on the coast. The risks to the environment and the livelihood of the inhabitants are great, but despite the opposition of the local population and the regional President the Spanish government in Madrid are backing the oil company.

We’re used to hearing about the oil companies bossing around weak governments in developing countries. But now the oil industry is demanding the same level of obedience from governments right around the world.  

Last weekend the Spanish government fell into line, as the Spanish navy repeatedly rammed Greenpeace boats engaged in a peaceful protest against oil drilling off the Canary islands. One crew member had to be evacuated after she was thrown into the water and her leg broken. Despite video evidence, the navy denied the ramming, and claimed the activist had been injured by the propellers of the Greenpeace boats.

The jet-boats in question have no propellers

When the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise returned to port the Spanish government detained the ship. The message was clear, the interests of the oil industry come before those of the environment, the opinion of the local population and the protests of millions worldwide who have demanded an end to the ceaseless exploitation. A peaceful protest against oil drilling was not acceptable to the oil company, and so was ended by the government.

Oil companies are happy to have governments defend their interests when protests occur. But they’d rather have protests silenced before they can draw breath. On 4 October Greenpeace was brought, at the last moment, before a judge in Rotterdam and denied the right to protest the arrival of Gazprom’s latest shipment of Arctic oil into the Netherlands. While the ruling can be appealed, the protest was halted.

In 2012 Shell engaged in a Kafkaesque effort to have protests against drilling plans in Alaska by Greenpeace and others banned in advance. Last week a judge ruled that this wasn’t possible, but the attempt was made. For Shell the right to protest is an inconvenience, and if debate and democracy can be avoided through the use of lawyers – then it will be.

These are just three instances of an ongoing campaign of intimidation aimed at keeping the views of the public out of the picture, a campaign that stretches from the frozen Arctic to the coastlines of New Zealand.

The right to peaceful protest is an essential part of a well functioning society. A deep rooted right to make your voice heard and to contest unjust laws. A right, if necessary, to put your own body or liberty on the line in defence of the fragile and defenceless. These rights, long considered a mark of our civilization are now being stripped away at the behest of a handful of oil companies who view the law only as a tool for the imposition of their will, and civil rights as a challenge that can be overcome, like the pressure of the ocean or the thickness of the rocks. 

 

Martin Loyd  is the mobilization Director with Greenpeace Netherlands

Faiza Oulahsen is a climate and energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Netherlands

Leon Varitimos is a communication and mobilization strategist with Greenpeace Netherlands

Joris Thijssen is the program director with Greenpeace Netherlands

via Greenpeace news http://ift.tt/14VxnuN http://ift.tt/eA8V8J

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