Kayaktivists and a Global Movement

by Annie Leonard

May 22, 2015

The global movement stop Arctic drilling has taken a giant leap forward in the last few weeks. So much has happened it’s hard to even know where to even begin!

Activists participate in the sHell No Flotilla part of the Paddle In Seattle protest. Nearly a thousand people from country gathered May 16, 2015 in Seattle's Elliott Bay for a family-friendly festival and on-land rally to protest against Shell’s Arctic drilling plans. Photo by Greenpeace

©Marcus Donner/Greenpeace

But I want to start with saying “THANK YOU.” Everything I am about to tell you was only possible because of the courage and support of the people like you who make up this movement.

When we started this, we knew it would be a challenge. Arctic drilling off the coast of Alaska was seen as a done deal. To stop Arctic drilling we need a movement.

And that’s what you are — you are part of a movement, and it’s clear you’re doing something right.

For months now, the people of Seattle have been making noise around Shell’s plan to use the Port of Seattle as a home base for its Arctic drilling operations. Hundreds of people gave impassioned, intelligent, and sometimes musical testimonies at Port Commission hearings, over a thousand people marched in the street to oppose Shell’s plans, and activists “unwelcomed” Shell’s rigs on the water as they came into port.

On Tuesday, May 12 things really started to heat up when The New York Times published a series of articles and opinion pieces about Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic. Going as far as linking President Obama’s legacy on climate to Arctic drilling. Even the satirical news website The Onion got into the action.

The furor over Arctic drilling reached such a fever pitch that two days later President Obama himself felt he needed to directly respond from his retreat at Camp David and defend his decision to allow Shell to drill.

Amazing! It was the millions of petition signatures, thousands of actions and years of dedication from people like yourself that made this moment possible.

It didn’t end there.

Last weekend in Seattle, I joined thousands of people for the #PaddleinSeattle protest — with 500 kayaks out on the water, led by several indigenous Canoe Families and accompanied by a couple of odd-shaped houseboats, a sailboat, a very brave swimmer, and a giant musical solar-powered barge known as the Solar Pioneer.

It was a truly inspiring display of opposition that received media coverage around the world and in almost every major newspaper in the country via the Associated Press story. The event left Shell with no doubt about the scale of resistance to its plans to drill in the Arctic this Summer.

We’re not letting up. There will be more to come this week and throughout the rest of the summer. If it’s the “People vs. Shell,” I like our chances.

This is why I decided to come back to Greenpeace after almost 20 years. To work alongside people like you, to make change on a global scale. I know we still have a long way to go stop Arctic drilling once and for all and to keep the fossil fuels we can’t afford to burn in the ground.

I also know — and these last few weeks prove it — that together anything is possible.

Annie Leonard

By Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. Leonard began her career at Greenpeace in 1988 and has returned to help the organization inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action to create a more sustainable future together. She is based in San Francisco.

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