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Conservation Groups Seek to Break World Record with Largest-Ever Polar Bear Uprising
President Obama: "No drilling in the Polar Bear Seas this summer"
WASHINGTON - On Saturday, concerned citizens will come together for “Polar Bear Uprisings” across the country and around the world to deliver a message to President Barack Obama – no drilling in the Polar Bear Seas this summer. As Shell Oil’s drill ships head to the Arctic Ocean to begin drilling this summer, citizens in more than 40 locations – from Capetown, South Africa to Barrow, Alaska – will wear white and put on polar bear masks to dance and bring awareness to the polar bear’s plight. Together, through the world’s largest-ever “Polar Bear Uprising,” they will demand that President Obama turn Shell’s ships around. The “Polar Bear Uprisings” are being organized by Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Species Coalition, Sierra Club and Oceana.
The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, the Arctic Ocean waters north of Alaska, are sometimes known as America’s “Polar Bear Seas” – and for good reason. One of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world, these waters are home to the entire population of U.S. polar bears and consequently have been designated critical habitat. But their habitat is shrinking and melting – Arctic summer sea ice could disappear by 2030 and experts believe the polar bear may be extinct by 2050. Any new industrial development in these waters would only add to the effects of climate change already causing stress on Arctic wildlife.
The risks of Arctic drilling are huge. The Arctic Ocean is prone to hurricane-force storms, 20-foot swells, sea ice up to 25 feet thick, sub-zero temperatures and months-long darkness. There is no proven way to clean up an oil spill in these extreme conditions. What’s more, the Arctic has extremely limited infrastructure – there are no roads or deep water ports and only a handful of small airports – and the nearest Coast Guard station is 1,000 miles away.
"If President Obama fails to stop Shell from drilling in America's Arctic Ocean he could be left with the next major drilling disaster on his hands, the destruction of one of our planet's most vital ecosystems and the loss of one of our most beloved and iconic species – the polar bear," said Cindy Shogan, Executive Director, Alaska Wilderness League. "President Obama, you must turn those drill ships around and stop Shell from the most risky and aggressive Arctic drilling plan ever."
"We’re speaking out for polar bears – who can’t tell him themselves – to let President Obama know the Arctic is no place for oil drilling that will raise the specter of devastating spills in pristine wildlife habitat," said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
"The risk that Shell's drilling plans pose to the Arctic's fragile natural systems is clear – that's why people from across the country will be gathering this weekend to call for Arctic protections. We should not entrust the future of one of our last and wildest frontiers, and the communities that rely on it for subsistence, to Big Oil," said Dan Ritzman, Sierra Club Alaska Program Director. "President Obama should permanently protect the wonders of the Polar Bear Seas for our children, not open them to drilling that will only deepen our addiction to oil."
The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.