The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

James Turner, Greenpeace USA - 415 812 1142 /

Global Stars Launch Campaign to Save the Arctic

Greenpeace to plant a million names on seabed beneath the pole


Rock stars, Hollywood actors, Polar explorers, business leaders and environmentalists have joined forces to launch an unprecedented bid for a global sanctuary in the Arctic. The group is demanding that oil drilling and unsustainable fishing be banned in Arctic waters, just as Shell prepares to begin exploratory drilling in Alaska this summer.

Sir Paul McCartney, Jack White, Penelope Cruz, Robert Redford, Edward Norton, boy band One Direction and dozens of other famous names are demanding that the uninhabited area around the North Pole be legally protected by the UN and made off-limits to polluters. The figures from across the world include Radiohead, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Emily Blunt, Baaba Maal, Javier Bardem, Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel and some of China's most famous musicians. The list includes nine Oscar winners, ten Golden Globe winners and five Grammy Award winners (details below).

Theirs are among the first one hundred names to be written on an Arctic Scroll, which was launched by Greenpeace today at the Rio Earth Summit. When a million others add their own names Greenpeace will embark on an expedition to plant it on the seabed at the North Pole, 2.5 miles beneath the ice. The spot will be marked by a Flag for the Future designed by the youth of the world. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is currently in Alaska preparing to shadow Shell's oil rigs as they make their way North.

Right now the huge expanse around the pole belongs to all of us, because it's defined in international law as the high seas, and underneath it is the deep seabed which is the common heritage of all mankind. But as temperatures rise and the ice melts the Arctic nations are making territorial claims on the seabed so they can open the door to the oil giants. Arctic sea ice has retreated dramatically in recent years and scientists say the North Pole could soon be ice free. (1)

The campaign was formally launched this morning at the Rio Earth Summit at a press conference (details below) hosted by Kumi Naidoo, Sir Richard Branson and actress Lucy Lawless, star of Battlestar Galactica and Xena. Lucy will be sentenced in September for her part in scaling Shell's Arctic oil rig and blocking its operations for 72 hours.

Sir Paul McCartney said: "The Arctic is one of the most beautiful and last untouched regions on our planet, but now it's under threat. Some countries and companies want to open it up to oil drilling and industrial fishing and do to the Arctic what they've done to the rest of our fragile planet. It seems madness that we are willing to go to the ends of the Earth to find the last drops of oil when our best scientific minds are telling us we need to get off fossil fuels to give our children a future. At some time, in some place, we need to take a stand. I believe that time is now and that place is the Arctic."

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: "The Arctic is coming under assault and needs people from around the world to stand up and demand action to protect it. A ban on offshore oil drilling and unsustainable fishing would be a huge victory against the forces ranged against this precious region and the four million people who live there. And a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the pole would in a stroke stop the polluters colonising the top of the world without infringing on the rights of Indigenous communities."

Shell is due to begin exploratory drilling at two offshore sites in the Alaskan Arctic in the coming weeks. If Shell is successful this summer, an Arctic oil rush will be sparked and the push to carve up the region will accelerate. Russian oil giant Gazprom is also pushing into the offshore Arctic this year.

In 2007 Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov planted a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the pole and 'claimed' it for Moscow (2). Wikileaks documents later revealed he was acting on the instructions of the Russian Government (3). Now Greenpeace is planting the names of a million global citizens beneath the pole and marking the spot with a Flag for the Future designed by children in a global competition organised by the ten million-strong Girl Guide movement.

The focus of the Greenpeace campaign will initially be on pushing for a UN resolution demanding a global sanctuary around the pole, and a ban on oil drilling and unsustainable fishing in the wider Arctic. Twenty years ago in Antarctica - at the other end of the Earth - something similar was created when the mining industry was banned from operating there and the continent was dedicated to science and research.

As dawn broke in the Pacific, an Arctic Rising began as polar bears began descending on famous buildings across the world. The Arctic Rising is following the sun across the globe and has already seen polar bears at Sydney Harbour Opera House, on the Great Wall of China, visiting the Kremlin, the Reichstag in Berlin, the Vatican, Big Ben in London, climbing City Hall in Brussels and setting up a "homeless polar bear" camp in Copenhagen Harbour alongside the Queen's vessel. Bears are on the William Tell statue in Switzerland, and Niagara Falls, while 23 Greenpeace activists were arrested in front of Shell's headquarters in The Hague. Then as the sun rose in Rio, the world's biggest polar bear - a 12m balloon - sailed in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue and the campaign to Save the Arctic began.

The campaign was launched today because the Arctic Circle is defined as the area of the globe which on the longest day - June 21st - experiences 24 hours of sunlight. On June 21st the sun never sets on the Arctic. Anybody in the world can add their name to the Arctic Scroll and have their name planted beneath the pole by visiting

Rodion Sulyandziga from the Udega People and First Vice President of RAIPON (Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North) said:

"At present, the Arctic - one of the last unique and intact places on Earth - is facing a real threat from active oil drilling. A large scale oil exploration 'development' can irreversibly destroy the virgin purity of the Arctic region, putting at stake the physical existence and survival of Indigenous Peoples who, without their traditional living patterns, without their eternal habitat, will have no future."

Three Arctic states, the US, Canada and Russia were responsible for sinking an Oceans Rescue Plan in Rio which would protect the vulnerable marine life of the Arctic's international waters and enable the establishment of a sanctuary in the area around the pole.

"The fight-back starts here, with the launch of this campaign," said Kumi Naidoo. "We're drawing a line in the ice and saying to the polluters, 'You come no further.' People ask me why I, as an African, care so deeply about the Arctic, but the answer is simple. The Arctic is the world's refrigerator, it keeps us cool by reflecting the sun's energy off its icy surface, but as the ice melts it's accelerating global warming, threatening lives and livelihoods on every continent. Wherever we come from, the Arctic is our destiny."

Greenpeace is a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

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