Greenpeace plants symbolic flag on the North Pole seabed to demand that the Arctic be made a global sanctuary

Press release - April 15, 2013
North Pole/ Manila — Four young people on a mission with Greenpeace have planted a flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole, at the same spot where a submarine planted a Russian flag claiming the Arctic for Moscow. (1) The young people planted their ‘Flag for the Future’ four kilometers beneath the ice at the top of the world and called for the region to be declared a global sanctuary.

The campaigners (2) held a ceremony this weekend at the geographic North Pole, led by two Arctic Indigenous ambassadors. There they cut a hole in the ice and lowered a flag designed by a child (3) from Malaysia, through the freezing waters to the seabed.

The flag is attached to a glass and titanium time capsule (4) containing the signatures of nearly three million people—including more than 8,000 Filipinos-- who asked for their names to be taken to the Pole when they joined Greenpeace’s campaign calling for the Arctic to be protected from exploitation. Many celebrities and prominent leaders [5], like Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu have joined the call for a global sanctuary. Over the weekend, Archbishop Tutu sent his message to the expedition team by saying said, "I offer my full support to these young people who travelled to the North Pole on behalf of those whose lives are being turned upside down by climate change.” [6]

Hollywood actor Ezra Miller — star of We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Perks of Being a Wallflower — is one of the youth ambassadors who planted the flag and the names. “I can’t feel the tips of my fingers or toes but my head and heart are filled with a newfound determination. Melting ice is a catastrophe, not a profit-making opportunity. To see it as such is utter madness. Three million people have now joined this movement to declare their commitment to save this vital part of our earth; I feel honoured to be a part of this team, which was chosen to represent all of them at this critical moment in history. This is a collective responsibility. It’s up to all of us, and especially the youth, to change the way that humanity treats this amazing planet we love and rely on so completely,” said Miller.

Another youth ambassador is Renny Bijoux, a member of the Youth Parliament from the island-nation of Seychelles that is at risk of being submerged by rising sea levels. “Though we are in the Arctic and I live in the Seychelles, on a global level it is my homeland too. Whatever happens here affects my people, from rising seas to growing storms. Sustainable development is the key. We must respect our environment and develop within its limits, because if we destroy our climate, we cannot sustain our development for future generations. The damage is clear and it is apparent. It’s time for those in power like the Arctic Council to realise this and see that protecting the Arctic is a global necessity”, said Bijoux.

Like the islands in the Indian Ocean, countries in Southeast Asia have been cited as some of the world’s most vulnerable, yet least prepared to cope with the devastating impacts of climate change.

The 5th Annual Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas (2013), released by global risk and strategic firm Maplecroft, has identified Manila, Bangkok and Jakarta under extreme risk from climate change.  These cities have seen major flooding in recent years which can become more frequent or more severe in the future.  Long-term changes in temperature and rainfall patterns is guaranteed to have devastating effects on ecosystems, human health, industrial processes, supply chains and infrastructure.

The expedition coincided with the first ever meeting at the North Pole of the Arctic Council, the governing body comprised of foreign ministers and senior officials from Arctic states. As the expedition started, the youth ambassadors requested for a meeting with the Arctic Council, but were refused. The weeklong expedition to the Pole is part of a global campaign to protect the Arctic, under threat from climate change, oil companies, industrial fishing and shipping. As global warming melts the sea ice, companies such as Shell, Gazprom and Statoil are moving in to exploit the region's oil as nation states lay claim to areas previously covered by ice.

The youth ambassadors and Greenpeace campaigners have challenged the companies and nations seeking to profit from climate change. By planting the time capsule and flag, they have drawn a line in the ice, telling the polluters and oil companies: you come no further.

The young people are part of a Greenpeace team that trekked for one week across the frozen ocean in freezing winds and temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius. They traveled around 10 km a day, each dragging heavy sleighs weighing 80kg behind them. In a remote and dangerous environment their supplies dwindled as the shifting ice took them further from the Pole. The team then hitched a ride with a helicopter that was flying in from the nearby Barneo Base, to put them within striking distance of the Pole, allowing them to ski and drift a shorter final distance and complete their journey to the top of the world.

Even as the Flag for the Future has already been planted, the fight to save the Arctic continues. People are invited to sign the Greenpeace petition at www.savetheartic.org

For more information, please contact:

Therese Salvador, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Arctic campaign, +63917-8228734,

Jessica Wilson, Greenpeace International Arctic campaign, +44 7896 893118,
Grace Duran-Cabus, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Images, 0917-6345126,

Images

Images can be viewed at http://photo.greenpeace.org/C.aspx?VP3=ViewBox_VPage&ALID=27MZIFVS4NWE&CT=Album and are available in high resolution from the Greenpeace picture desk.

Video

Various video elements can be downloaded from our publicly accessible ftp server.
server: ftp.greenpeacemedia.net
login: dvout
passw: 0utput (first digit is a zero)
folder: 130415_North_Pole_pod_news

Notes

[1] A Russian submarine, piloted by explorer Artur Chilligarov, planted the Russian flag beneath the Pole in 2007. Before embarking on his expedition Chilligarov said: “The Arctic is Russian. We must prove the North Pole is an extension of the Russian landmass.” Wikileaks cables later revealed he was acting on the instructions of the Kremlin.

[2] The Team Aurora youth ambassadors include 20-year-old musician and Hollywood actor Ezra Miller, star of We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Renny Bijoux, member of the Youth Parliament from the Seychelles; Kiera-Dawn Kolson of the Tso’Tine-Gwich’in nations in Northern Canada, and Josefina Skerk, an Indigenous activist and member of the Sami Parliament in Sweden.

[3] The ‘Flag for the Future’ was designed by 13-year-old Sarah Batrisyia from Malaysia, who won a global competition run by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and Greenpeace. The contest was judged by fashion icon Dame Vivienne Westwood

[4] The time capsule was designed and made in Amsterdam by Joris Laarman Labs. More information on the construction of the time capsule can be found here.

[5] Among those who asked Greenpeace to take their names to the bottom of the ocean at the top of the world are boy band One Direction, Paul McCartney, Penelope Cruz and dozens of other actors, musicians, artists, and members of the business community like Richard Branson.

[6] Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: "I offer my full support to these young people who travelled to the North Pole on behalf of those whose lives are being turned upside down by climate change. The melting of the Arctic matters to every person on earth, and I believe that we must work together to create a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the North Pole. We owe it to future generations to protect the Arctic and keep destructive industry away from this fragile and beautiful place."

Categories