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 350.org 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.