Before I head off, I want to share with you my reasons for climbing up a 100-meter high oil rig, perched on the back of a cargo ship, swaying in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Just so we’re all on the same page.
This isn’t just a protest against Shell drilling in the Arctic. I didn’t make the decision to do this ambitious act in a zen-style instant of clarity. For me, taking action like this comes from a deep frustration with something that is bigger than me. And after years of feeling deeply disheartened and completely powerless, I finally found the conviction to step up.
Becoming an adult in the tweens of the 21st century, I was a witness to the abundance of reports that spelled out the gravity of climate change. When I started studying environmental science in 2012, I began to comprehend the magnitude and complexity with which climate change will affect our natural world and survival. One particularly humid morning I found myself listening as a classmate read a report emphasizing that if we continue to burn fossil fuels at our current rate, around 80% of species would go extinct by 2050(!). You might be wondering what kind of species, but it doesn’t matter when 80% are gone, we’re completely screwed. I felt my heart sink as our future became even more terrifying. This became a regular experience, with each new report I read the science looked scarier, more dramatic and more certain of a catastrophic future with two, four or even six degrees of warming.
Thoughts of such a volatile future filled my head. I felt angry, sad, frustrated and anxious. The weight of reality can feel isolating and I found myself wanting to cry every time I heard about my government approving more and more coal mines. I wanted to shake everyone who told me that our economy relied on fossil fuels and without them we would be a lot worse off. How could they not see the future that burning fossil fuels are pushing us towards? How did we let ourselves get this far down such a dangerous path?
So I signed up for every organisation that was trying to stop the burning of fossil fuels. I wrote letters, helped make banners, hand out flyers, get petitions signed, put up posters, organised events and protested fossil fuel expansion. Sometimes, it’s possible to feel inadequate when you find yourself painting a papier-mâché coal head as your means of protecting our world (yes, I wore a paper-mache lump of coal as a head at a mining industry event). But, as far as I can tell, it all helps. Every time you take action people notice, they talk to friends, think about the issue and hopefully realize they can do something too. In the words of Margret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.
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The movement for the change we need is already growing. And I assure you big business is starting to notice. They are so worried that they are willing to spend billions to lobby governments. They are fighting desperately to get their hands on the last deposits of fossil fuels and squeeze it from even the most isolated areas. History shows us that big business and governments understand the power of social movements. Fossil fool companies are terrified of what is already gaining momentum. That is why we all need to step up now, take this fight into our own hands and build the movement that is needed to stop this suicide mission.
Drilling in the Arctic is insane. Companies already have their hands on 80% more fossil fuels then we can afford to burn. The technology Shell is counting on to clean up an Arctic oil spill is about as useful as a stick in the eye.One US government report has already stated there is a 75% chance of an oil spill if Arctic oil is allowed to fully develop. We know they do not have the means to mitigate the widespread destruction that countless of barrels of oil would cause. I think it’s psychopathic to sign off on the devastation of one of the most pristine environments in the world, actively disregard all the community outrage and knowingly accelerate climate change that is threatening our survival, just to make a quick buck.
My main motivation for climbing Shell’s drill rig is to inspire others to take action against companies and governments who continue to ignore the reality of climate change and commit to burning fossil fuels. I feel that the continued failure of our governments and corporations to protect our planet is just an invitation for us to step up. Right now we have a small opportunity to work together and create the future we want, but it is closing fast so we need to run.
Swaying 40 meters in the air off Shell’s Polar Pioneer in the middle of the Pacific Ocean isn’t exactly my idea of fun. But feeling sea sick – facing my fear of heights – defecating in a bucket – trying my best to share my story – and risking arrest, will all be worth it, if together, we can combine our voices and make it known that we are creative, committed and we’re not going away. We can take a stand now. We are building an unstoppable movement. And we’re going to show Shell and the fossil fuel industry there is no future in wrecking our planet.