Being a volunteer aboard a Greenpeace ship is an inspiring experience. Since the Arctic Sunrise was boarded illegally and with all crew members being held in custody for two months, it’s important for me to remember what we are standing up for. We are standing up for the environment and the plants and animals that are at the mercy of human activities. We are also standing up for each other.
Today, when I walked into the Rainbow Warrior’s mess (dining room) for breakfast, I saw a note on our message board saying that 30 of our friends and colleagues are still being detained by the Russian government for investigation into piracy charges. Their detainment is temporarily set at two months, and pending the results of the investigation, could end up being many years more.
On board the Rainbow Warrior, we often talk about current Greenpeace campaigns – the important environmental work the organization does. But now, the topic of the Arctic Sunrise and her crew never seems to leave the table. Every meal, we do a quick round of updates and see what people have heard. While we're working, and much to our dismay, we tend to speculate on how things will unfold. It's heartbreaking to hear that so many amazing people are facing such a nightmarish scenario.
These are all people who are actively working to protect the environment. They are not pirates. They are 30 peaceful people from 18 different countries, standing up for their beliefs. They are the voice of millions of people from every part of the world.
The men and women on board the Rainbow Warrior also represent many different nations and while we understand the work we do has risks, we don’t expect to be thrown in prison for lengthy terms for taking part in peaceful protest.
Greenpeace has a storied history of showing the world the dangers unbridled industrial expansion can cause. I'm curious how much money the oil companies feel they need to make before they admit the world needs to preserve one of the last profoundly beautiful habitats we have.
I strongly believe that most of these big businesses don't actively go out trying to destroy the planet but that this destruction is a byproduct of their dreams of a bigger bank account. To me, it points to a deeper problem - one where we measure our success, and the success of others, by what we earn and not what we accomplish.
Gazprom's immoral advance into the polar north is an absurdity. Climate change is causing the Arctic to melt, allowing oil companies access to what used to be ice-bound. Unfortunately, instead of taking this as a warning sign, the world’s largest oil and gas companies are taking advantage of the ice-free Arctic to drill for more oil – the burning of which is causing the ice to melt.
The risks are too great to let that happen.
From oil spills we have witnessed in recent years, we are well versed on the horrendous ecological impacts our addiction to oil is causing. I won't spend much time dwelling on this, but I would like it if you took two minutes to think about a few things. How would we clean up an area that is inaccessible for most of the year? Also, how could we safely do this, especially when a large number of people would be needed? The answer is simple. We can't.
What we can do is to try and prevent oil spills by not letting oil companies rush to the Arctic and put this pristine region at a risk that can easily be avoided. Our goal is to create a global sanctuary around the North Pole, and to ban offshore drilling and destructive industry in this region. If you have not yet signed our petition to save the Arctic, you can do it here. And we can help by doing what we can for our friends and colleagues being detained in Russia. Please sign the petition to free the Arctic 30 and show your support for non-violent direct action and for the planet.
*Cole McLean is a Canadian volunteer aboard the Rainbow Warrior