Gulf Coast Activist Crashes Shell Meeting to Decry Destruction of Her Home

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Gulf Coast Activist Crashes Shell Meeting to Decry Destruction of Her Home

'I questioned why they continue to gamble with the health of our waters, marine life and ways of life,' says Indigenous activist

Photographer and filmmaker Monique Verdin documented how fossil fuel extraction impacts coastal communities in her 2012 film My Louisiana Love. (Photo: Andy Cook)

Just two weeks after Royal Dutch Shell's offshore drilling operations released nearly 90,000 gallons of oil into the water off the Louisiana coast, an Indigenous activist from the Gulf region spoke out at Shell's annual shareholders meeting in the Netherlands on Tuesday, highlighting the company's history of environmental devastation in the place she calls home. 

"In the late 90s, after learning that their community was plagued by an open-air, toxic, oil-field waste facility, I began documenting my Houma relatives living in a small, mostly American Indian and Cajun community called Grand Bois, located just south of Houma, Louisiana," Monique Verdin told Common Dreams via email. "As I was taken further and further down the bayous I also became more and more aware of our rapid land loss and the other environmental impacts caused by the oil and gas industry."

Today, Verdin—Hurricane Katrina evacuee, witness to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and member-elect of the Houma Nation Council—says "the only way to ensure we protect the water and sanctity of life in and along the Gulf Coast is to put an end to extreme fossil fuel development."

And she took that message to Shell executives and shareholders on Tuesday.

"I hope that Shell executives and shareholders were able to witness our perspectives of their damaging business practices affecting our communities on the frontlines of the Mississippi Delta and across the Gulf Coast," said Verdin, a photographer who displayed a pop-up exhibition of 10-foot professional photos documenting climate impacts on communities of New Orleans outside before going inside to make her demands to the oil behemoth.

Photo by Monique Verdin.

"I reminded them that just 2 weeks ago, almost 90,000 gallons of oil leaked from one of their sub seafloor pipelines, in depths of over 2000 feet," she said after the action. "Additionally, I questioned why they continue to gamble with the health of our waters, marine life and ways of life by exploring and extracting carbon in the more dangerous and uncertain depths than ever before. Finally, in response to some of the opening statements about how Shell wants to cut carbon emissions, I recommended that one easy way to do that was to 'Keep it in the Ground' and to refrain from bidding on any new leasing opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico."

With temperature records being broken left and right, sea levels rising, and extreme weather becoming commonplace, Verdin said it is "absurd" that "the federal government is putting more offshore lands onto the auction block than ever before."

Verdin wasn't the only one protesting Shell's polluting practices on Tuesday. 

The Belfast Telegraph reports:

The beginning of the meeting was marred by protests from campaigners angry over Shell's operation in Groningen province in the northern Netherlands.

The AGM was held up for several minutes as protesters chanted and shouted about Shell's handling of safety at its joint venture drilling project at one of Europe's richest gas fields, where extraction is causing earthquakes in the region.

But reports from inside the meeting suggested that the Big Oil giant remains uncompromising with regard to the climate risks its practices pose.

Protests are also planned to take place in Dallas, Texas and San Ramon, California on Wednesday, as Exxon and Chevron meet for their respective annual meetings.

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