Shell’s Arctic Drilling is the Real Threat to the World, Not Kayaktivists

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Shell’s Arctic Drilling is the Real Threat to the World, Not Kayaktivists

Oil firm has created a ‘safety zone’ to keep protesters out of its drilling sites but its unblinking, destructive quest for profit must be addressed by Obama and others

Activists protest against the Shell drilling rig Polar Pioneer in Seattle last month. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)


Shell has one or two rivals for the title of Planet’s Most Irresponsible Company, but it’s definitely the most ironic.

The grand irony, of course, is that, having watched the Arctic melt as global temperatures rose, Shell was first in line to drill the newly melted waters for yet more oil which would raise the temperature some more.

But lately, the planetary-scale irony was compounded by one of a more local variety, contained in the phrase safety zone.


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Here’s the backstory: In May, Shell convinced a federal judge in Alaska to enjoin Greenpeace from protesting too closely to Shell’s Arctic drilling vessels. This restricted area, or safety zone, was set at 500 yards (457 metres) while these vessels transit in Seattle’s Puget Sound. Then, last month, 500 kayaks congregated around one of Shell’s giant Arctic drilling rigs as it sat in Puget Sound, a David-and-Goliath picture that flew across the web. And a couple of brave souls peacefully suspended themselves from another one of its drilling vessels, as others had done a month earlier.

No one was hurt. But Shell didn’t like any of this, so the company, in a not-so-subtle attempt to intimidate opposing voices, decided to send out a copy of the Greenpeace injunction to and others who oppose its Arctic drilling plans.

Of course no court as yet has drawn a safety zone around the Arctic, even though a January study published in the journal Nature made it clear that if we open up the stores of gas and oil in the far north we won’t be able to protect the climate from dramatic change. Instead, Barack Obama invited Shell to drill.

Read the rest of the article at The Guardian.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and co-founder of His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is the executive director of Greenpeace USA, founder of the Story of Stuff Project, and has spent more than twenty years investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues. In addition to the original short film, Story of Stuff,  she also created The Story of Cap & TradeThe Story of Cosmetics, The Story of Bottled Water, and The Story of Electronics.

Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, author, and syndicated columnist. Her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (Simon & Schuster, 2014), has just been published. Her previous books include the international best-sellers,  The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.   To read all her writing visit Follow her on Twitter: @NaomiAKlein.

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