When Greenpeace volunteer Katrina Armstrong was walking through campus at Grant Macewan university in Edmonton, and saw that Shell was doing a career presentation at her school she frantically started texting me. Her and I are the new local group facilitators for Greenpeace in Edmonton, Alberta. We've supported Greenpeace campaigns that have targeted Shell and attempted to expose the cozy relationship between Big Oil and Canada's government, like Greenpeace works to Stop the Tar Sands and most recently, the international campaign to Save the Arctic, which expose the controversial, risky and dirty oil production projects Shell is proposing in this region. Read the report "Harper's Shell Game" or the blog "8 Reasons Why Shell Can't Be Trusted in the Arctic" to get caught up.
We agreed that a great local group event to start out 2013 would be to disturb Shell's presentation and let them know they're not welcome on our campuses and that we do not support the way they treat the environment. The hard part was that we only had six days to prepare and a vague idea what tactics we wanted to use.
Being pressed for time we decided that a quick and easy event would be to stand up at the front of the room during the presentation and hold signs, with slogans like "get the S(hell) out of the Arctic" and "be part of the solution, don't work for shell" as well as signs bringing light to Shell Tar Sands expansions and the Kulluk accident. There are some more images of what we came up with in this blog. After we came up with the concept, we started networking with solidarity groups, making social media events and re-posting like crazy. The response was bigger then we thought. People are angry about the environmental havoc Shell is wreaking. Espeically since we live in Alberta and see the impacts of the Tar Sands first hand on our water, forests and on the people directly impacted by the destruction, like the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN).
After a meeting with the volunteers interested we finalized our plans to include a chant, pre-event posters around the school, and an art build (with only four days left before the presentation!). On the eve of the event we had a final run through, finished signs and postered the campus with some mock ads for the event. Everyone was feeling confidant and ready to tell Shell just how we felt. When the event day came everyone was prepared to stand our ground and make sure Shell heard our concerns loud and clear. Final details were being talked about when one of the volunteers posted in our forum that they had heard the event had been cancelled. Looking into it myself I checked the Grant Macewan website and sure enough it had been, after we all speculated as to why it had be cancelled another volunteer called the school to pretend like they were disappointed because she was looking into a career with Shell, only to have the staff member tell her " it was going to be protested by Greenpeace."
This was considered and celebrated as a massive win for our small group of volunteers who came together last minute only to have the Shell representative back out, intimidated by a small group of people holding Shell accountable for their actions. Even if our plans had been leaked we were incredibly happy that this was the outcome, without even having to stand at the front of a classroom possibly being booed and berated we had won this, our first group attempt to stand up to Big Oil.
In closing Katrina, myself and our dedicated group of amazing volunteers are happy to report that our voices are being heard and that this will not be our last event in the fight against Big Oil.
Nicole McDonal is a volunteer with Greenpeace, a facilitaor and organizer with the Greenpeace Edmonton Local Group. For more on Local Groups, visit here.
More Signs From the Edmonton Local Group: