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Greenpeace from the Rooftop: 'Do Not Drill in the Arctic'

- Common Dreams staff

Greenpeace activists today scaled the National Gallery in London to deliver a clear message from the rooftop: 'Shell Oil, Stay Out of the Arctic.' Shell: it's no oil painting. (Credit: Greenpeace / Sandison)

The action comes after the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement last week approved Shell's oil spill response plan for the Chukchi Sea off the Alaskan coast.  "The company’s oil spill response plan for the Chukchi Sea off Alaska was given the all clear by US authorities, even though it’s a work of almost complete fantasy," said Greenpeace in a statement today.

The Press Association reports:

[Activists] scaled the gallery in Trafalgar Square, where an evening reception is being held for Shell, saying they wanted to demonstrate against plans to drill for oil in the Arctic this summer.

The campaigners, from Greenpeace, dropped a 40-metre square banner, which has a picture of an oil rig and the words It's No Oil Painting, down the front of the gallery.

One of the protesters, Hannah Davey, said: "Shell is using the National Gallery to try and impress people they've invited along. But, at the same time, they're planning to drill for oil in the freezing Arctic, our planet's last wild ocean.

"The Arctic's coastlines are home to indigenous people, and its waters nurture polar bears, beluga whales and walruses.

"We're here to tell Shell, and their guests, that oil companies have to keep out of the Arctic. The region is too fragile to risk an oil spill that experts say would be almost impossible to clean up."

Climbers on top of the National Gallery in London where Shell is hosting a PR event. (Credit: Greenpeace / Sandison)

Shell's arctic spill plan, according to Greenpeace, "is full of self-styled 'solutions' that have never been properly tested in extreme Arctic conditions. These include a capping and containment system that hasn’t even been built, deflection barriers that won’t work properly in ice, and on-shore clean-up plans that look like they’ve been drawn by a child":

The BBC reports:

Up to eight activists from environmental protest group Greenpeace have climbed on to the roof of the National Gallery in London.

The campaigners said they were protesting against oil firm Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic.

They have unfurled a 40-metre (131ft) long banner from the roof bearing the picture of an oil rig and reading 'It's No Oil Painting'.

A BBC employee at the scene said police had cordoned off the main entrance.

Verity Wilde said she could see six of the protesters on the roof and two were suspended on ropes on the sides of the building.

The protesters said they had targeted the gallery as Shell is hosting an event there.

One of the protesters, Hannah Davey, said: "We're here to tell Shell, and their guests, that oil companies have to keep out of the Arctic.

"The region is too fragile to risk an oil spill that experts say would be almost impossible to clean up."

Want to see the Arctic protected? Greenpeace invites you to join the discussion on their blog and on Twitter: #SaveTheArctic.

Related news from Greenpeace/UK:

Paula Bear emerged from her wintry den to mingle with the crowds in Trafalgar Square, where dozens of Greenpeace volunteers are talking to curious passers-by.

Polar bears—like other Arctic species including beluga whales, narwhals and walruses—are already under severe pressure in the Arctic from climate change. In just 30 years, the Arctic has lost 75 percent of its sea ice, and temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than anywhere else on Earth.

While more and more people recognize the changing face of the Arctic as a stark warning about climate change (earlier today, several scientists gave evidence to this effect to the parliamentary inquiry, Protecting the Arctic), Shell sees the melting ice as a business opportunity—a chance to drill in newly accessible areas to find more of the oil that caused the melt in the first place.

And now Shell plans to create a new threat to the Arctic’s stunning—and ecologically fragile—coastlines and oceans: the threat of a catastrophic oil spill, which would be impossible to clean up.

Shell is just first of the so-called ‘supermajors’—the big oil companies—to make exploitation of the Arctic a key part of their strategy. But if it strikes oil this summer, other global oil giants may follow.

Shell sees the Arctic as a resource to be exploited for profit. We think it should be protected. What do you think? Join the discussion on our blog and on Twitter: #SaveTheArctic.

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