The Russian public are far less sure than Gazprom about the question of drilling in the Arctic. In a poll produced by Russian research agency FOM, 42% said drilling and mining in the Arctic was not appropriate. Just behind the 45% who felt it was.
And if they're unsure about the wisdom of drilling, they're even more unsure about the wisdom of making territorial claims. Asked if neutral Arctic territory should be split up between the nations which border it, 69% said no. Just 17% favoured partition.
That shows that, as in most Arctic nations, the question of what to do about the Arctic is far from settled in Russia. Elements of Russian media, some state owned and some directly owned by oil company Gazprom have gone out of their way to talk up the benefits of drilling in the Arctic. But they haven't mentioned the chronic spills, the high costs or the danger. That's a piece of the Arctic puzzle that has yet to be shared with most of the Russian public.
The poll also found that 69% of Russians think of the Arctic as a frozen wilderness of snow and ice. Asked what came to mind when they thought of the Arctic only 15% mentioned the native wildlife, like Polar Bears and Walrus. The story of the Arctic as an amazing, living environment, where extraordinary creatures live and thrive in the most extreme conditions is one still waiting to be told in Russia.
And nobody mentioned the Indigenous Peoples.
Gazprom's push into the Arctic has benefitted from a lack of scrutiny and interest. If you don't know about the wildlife and the pollution it looks like an unremarkable plan. If you don't know about the costs, the risk and the danger it might even seem reasonable.
That's the illusion the Arctic 30 set out to expose. Gazprom's drilling is anything but safe, and the Arctic is anything but desolate. The coastlines threatened by Gazprom's monster oil rig teem with fish and are home to unique Arctic wildlife. Gazprom's safety record is full of accidents, spills and deaths.
And we know what happens when Gazprom's involvement in the Arctic is exposed. In 2012, Greenpeace activists visited the same oil rig, the Prirazlomnaya, to bear witness and draw attention to its activities. Opinion polling commissioned by Greenpeace, but carried out by pollster Romir Research (part of the WIN/Gallup network) found that two-thirds of Russians had heard about the action, and that almost one in five had subsequently changed their mind to oppose industrial exploration in the Arctic. The more Russians know about what's being done in the Arctic, the less they like it.
By being willing to voyage to the frontiers of the world and bear witness to the activities of industries ranging from whaling and logging to waste dumping and nuclear testing, Greenpeace has exposed a succession of crimes against the environment. The bravery and the commitment of the Arctic 30 has made Arctic drilling another one. They've put this story of thoughtless destruction on the front pages, where it deserves to be. And now the world can make up its mind. Should the Arctic be left as an untouched frontier? Or should it be turned into an industrial wasteland?
The Arctic 30 have taken a stand to protect one of the earth's last unspoilt places. Now you can stand with them. Free the Arctic 30.
Martin Lloyd is the Marketing Communication Manager at Greenpeace International.