Even before Shell’s oil rig, the 400-foot-tall Polar Pioneer, arrived in Seattle it was met with outrage. Six Greenpeace volunteers protested Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic by boarding the vessel en route. The bold individuals put a spotlight on Shell and the world has been watching ever since.  

Leased to replace the Kulluk, which broke loose from tow lines and ran aground during a storm in the Gulf of Alaska in 2012, the Polar Pioneer is ready to make its way to the Chukchi Sea. Where, along with the Noble Discoverer, it will drill a half-dozen exploratory wells once the pack ice recedes. An operation that will get underway as early as July 15 according to Shell spokesman, Curtis Smith. By operating both rigs simultaneously Shell aims to maximize its return on investment, a whopping $6 billion.

Photo: New York Times

Photo: New York Times

Since arriving at Port Angeles on April 17th Shell’s stay in Seattle hasn’t been a quiet one. Upon their arrival they were greeted by protesters in boats and on kayaks. And this Saturday the “Shell No Flotilla” event hopes to attract a thousand kayaks in what is being dubbed an “act of solidarity.” In addition, two hundred opponents of the anti-Shell effort are prepared to face arrest for civil disobedience protests.

Photo: New York Times

Activists are speaking out against Shell’s plans for a number of reasons. First, Chukchi Sea is the migration route for marine mammals including bowhead whales and walruses. Second, it’s home to 2,000 polar bears—a tenth of the world’s population. Third, the remote location will make it extremely difficult for cleanup and rescue workers to arrive quickly in case of an accident. Last, the burning of fossil fuels needs to be halted if we are to hold to a temperature rise of only 2 degrees Celsius. A figure that many already consider an insurmountable goal.

Photo: New York Times

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, sums it up best,

"The Obama administration’s decision to give Shell Oil the go-ahead to drill in the Arctic shows why we may never win the fight against climate change. Even in this most extreme circumstance, no one seems able to stand up to the power of the fossil fuel industry. No one ever says no."

That is, except for the people.

If you’d like to add your support, sign the Save the Arctic petition: https://www.savethearctic.org