Free the Arctic 30

Free the Arctic 30. Photo © Gary Taxali

When the Himalayan forests faced extreme destruction, extraordinary people stood up to protect the environment - Sunderlal Bahuguna and Viman Bahuguna. They spearheaded the 'Chipko Movement' in India.

The 'Chipko Movement' is one of the most powerful environmental protests that has taken place in India. In 1973, people in the Himalayan region hugged trees to stop their destruction. It highlighted the grave issue of deforestation and linked it with community land rights. Sunderlal Bahuguna also campaigned against the Tehri Dam construction in Uttarakhand.

Chipko's slogan 'Ecology is permanent economy' is relevant today more than ever. We cannot afford to deplete our resources, destroy natural habitats and displace communities at the cost of our growing energy demands.

Several other individuals have stood up to defend their environment. Wangiri Maathai of the Green Belt in Kenya, who worked for environmental conservation and women's rights. And Ken Saro Wiwa, who bravely stood up for the rights of people and against environmental damage. He was the president of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People and was sadly, executed for his environmental activism in Nigeria.

Today, as we speak - the Arctic faces a serious threat from oil companies like Gazprom, which intend to drill the Arctic for its oil. The Arctic 30 are environmental heroes who risked their liberty to speak up against environmental destruction. Their arrest and detention is sending out a clear message on suppressing voices that speak up to defend the environment.

Sunderlal Bahuguna, Wangri Maathai, Ken Saro Wiwa are all heroes who have proved time and again that it is not okay to sit back and watch the wrong being done to the environment and to innocent people. These are heroes with a strong voice and something of value to say. Let's not let these voices die down by supposedly 'powerful' people with connections and little conscience. Let their voices be heard and let us do all that we can to bring back the Arctic 30 so they can continue to do what they are meant to.

Ruhie Kumar is a Digital Campaigner with Greenpeace India and Komal Singh is the Web Editor with Greenpeace India.