McKibben Blasts Obama Over Arctic Drilling as Activists Ready for Fight

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McKibben Blasts Obama Over Arctic Drilling as Activists Ready for Fight

Founder of 350.org says that now, "as with Keystone, it will be up to the environmental movement to block Shell's plan."

"Kayaktivists" in Shell's homeport of Seattle are holding a Flotilla on Thursday to confront the drilling fleet. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/cc/flickr)

"Kayaktivists" in Shell's homeport of Seattle are holding a Flotilla on Thursday to confront the drilling fleet. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/cc/flickr)

Faced with the imminent arrival of the Shell drilling fleet and newly announced White House backing for Arctic oil exploration, activists and environmentalists are readying for a fight.

In a New York Times op-ed on Tuesday, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben blasted the Obama administration's decision on Monday to grant the oil giant conditional approval to begin drilling operations in the Beaufort and Chuchki Seas this summer.

McKibben said that, despite his rhetoric, President Barack Obama has repeatedly exhibited "climate denial of the status quo sort," where people "accept the science, and indeed make long speeches about the immorality of passing on a ruined world to our children," but then ultimately "deny the meaning of the science, which is that we must keep carbon in the ground."

"Even in this most extreme circumstance, no one seems able to stand up to the power of the fossil fuel industry. No one ever says no," McKibben writes. He notes that now, "as with Keystone, it will be up to the environmental movement to block the plan."

On the ground, activists have taken up that call.

In Seattle, where the fossil fuel giant has leased a port terminal to serve as a "homeport" for its drilling fleet—over the objection of city residents and elected officials—one activist early Tuesday perched atop a 20-foot metal tripod, blocking the gates to the Shell fuel-transfer station in protest of its Arctic drilling plans.

Later in the day, grassroots activists with the Coalition for Port Accountability are holding a rally at the Seattle Port headquarters to demand that it rescind Shell's lease on the grounds that it violates port permit laws and was granted without public notification or consent. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council also support this call.

Meanwhile, according to reports, two of Shell's floating drilling rigs are due to dock in Washington ports any day now.

One ship, the Noble Discoverer, is expected to arrive at the Port of Everett on Tuesday and a second drill ship, the Polar Pioneer, is due to arrive at Terminal 5 in Seattle later this week, King 5 News reports, "despite the Mayor Ed Murray's assertion that the Port of Seattle can't host the rig until it gets a new land-use permit."

Other protesters, dubbed "kayaktivists," have organized a "sHell No Flotilla" and on May 16 are planning a mass water-based blockade, where they will paddle out and physically confront the massive rig entering the port.

Beginning Thursday, a coalition of environmental groups including Bayan USA, 350 Seattle, Backbone Campaign, Mosquito Fleet, and Rising Tide Seattle have organized three days of resistance. The actions this week are building towards a day of mass direct action on May 18 during which the groups pledge to use "nonviolent action to shut down Shell and all operations related to their Arctic expedition."

Under the banner "sHell No," the Seattle-based coalition says: "Shell’s drilling rigs are a prime example of the root causes and injustice of the climate crisis. They will generate untold wealth for the few, while wrecking the climate for everyone, trampling on indigenous rights, and causing millions of deaths in the global south. 

"Fifteen years after the WTO protests, we will remind the world that corporations like Shell that abuse human, environmental, and labor rights are not welcome in Seattle," the groups continue. "We are fighting for a world where we can all provide for our families without risking our health, planet, or future generations."

Updates on the growing campaign against Shell's Arctic drilling plans are being shared online under the hashtag #ShellNo.

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