As the thunder broiled and lightning split the sodden night sky, a team of activists from Greenpeace Netherlands scaled the giant drilling rig GSP Saturn in the port of IJmuiden to stop it leaving for the Russian Arctic. The rig has been hired by Gazprom to drill a well at the Dolginskoye field in the Pechora Sea.
A few hours later, 15 volunteers left the Greenpeace ship Esperanza and climbed on-board the Transocean Spitsbergen in the northern reaches of the Barents Sea. This huge rig has been chartered by Norway’s state-owned company Statoil to look for oil in these frigid waters this summer.
International oil companies like Shell, Gazprom and Statoil are part of a new club of Arctic destroyers. Their websites and company logos might look different, but they have much more in common than they would ever admit. The club is open to anyone who is reckless, desperate and driven by profit alone.
Remarkably, the GSP Saturn has never drilled in the Arctic before. It has no experience of working in the most inhospitable regions and has clocked an impressive zero hours operating in the harsh conditions north of the Arctic Circle. Yet Gazprom want to sail it north in the narrow summer window when the Pechora Sea isn’t usually covered by thick sea ice. What could possibly go wrong?
In the Barents sea, Statoil wants to drill the most northerly well that anyone has ever drilled in human history. It is closer to the North Pole than ever before, where an oil spill in icy waters would leave little chance for the amazing animals who live here. Should the worst happen, wildlife havens like the incredible Bear Island would be coated in oil in a matter of days.
So why have Greenpeace volunteers from places like Fiji, the Philippines, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and Finland taken action in two different countries, hundreds of miles apart?
Because the threat posed by this club of international oil companies demands a global response.
What happens in the Arctic affects us all. Melting sea ice and the reality of climate change will touch the lives of every woman, man and child on Earth. The Arctic needs heroes like never before, to keep it from the clutches of Statoil, Gazprom, Shell and all the other companies who see only oil wells and pipelines whenever they look north.
Peaceful direct action is just one tool we have. But this challenge demands an urgent, global response from us all – not just the brave activists in climbing gear. You can do your bit by joining us and taking action. Let’s crash the Arctic oil club and open something better in its place.
Ben Ayliffe is head of the Arctic oil campaign at Greenpeace UK.
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