7 People-Powered Moments That Helped Defeat Shell in 2015

by April Glaser

October 1, 2015

Monday’s news of Shell’s decision to stop searching for oil in the Alaskan Arctic marks a milestone in the ongoing fight to rein in runaway climate change. We’ve traveled far to get here, yet the road ahead of us remains a long one.

Paddle in Seattle Flotilla Protest

Activists raise a "Climate" banner in the sHell No Flotilla in the 'Paddle in Seattle' protest.

© Marcus Donner / Greenpeace

Together, all over the world, communities organized and built a movement to protect our planet for future generations in an unprecedented showing of people-powered action for environmental justice. Looking back over the past year, we’re still reeling from what’s been a truly global and grassroots effort to fight one of the largest corporate powers in the world. If it weren’t for the courage, creativity and support from millions of individuals who were troubled enough by Shell’s drilling in the Arctic to do something about it, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

The oil giant retreated after spending years trying to drill in the Arctic, as well as $7 billion – no small amount . This isn’t the kind of thing a company like Shell backs away from lightly. Everyone who signed a petition, shared the news, got in a kayak, joined a protest – you all made this happen.

Some highlights from what’s been one incredible year:

1. The Aerial blockade of Shell’s Arctic-bound icebreaker in Portland, Oregon

Colorful streamers float on the wind under the St. Johns Bridge where climbers and kayaktivists attempt to prevent the Shell-leased icebreaker MSV Fennica from joining Shell's Arctic oil drilling fleet. The Fennica came to Portland to have a gash in its hull repaired after being damaged in the Arctic as Shell prepared to explore for oil in the Chukchi Sea.

Colorful streamers float on the wind under the St. Johns Bridge where climbers and kayaktivists stopped the Shell-leased icebreaker MSV Fennica dead in its tracks on its way to join Shell’s Arctic oil drilling fleet. The Fennica came to Portland to have a gash in its hull repaired after being damaged in the Arctic as Shell prepared to explore for oil in the Chukchi Sea, but was delayed by the aerial and water blockade for two days. The whole world was watching Portland for those two days, making for one of the most inspiring and picturesque environmental activism moments in recent history. Photo by Robert Meyers / Greenpeace

2. Aurora’s Parade, a giant people-powered polar bear the size of a double-decker bus was pulled through London and parked outside Shell’s world headquarters for weeks

 

Emma Thompson pulls a colossal polar bear puppet, called Aurora, the size of a double decker bus. Acclaimed British actor and screenwriter Emma Thompson joins Greenpeace in a protest against Shell's drilling in the Arctic. Just over two weeks ago Shell got the final permits it needs to start drilling for oil in the melting Arctic Ocean, risking an oil spill in icy waters that would be almost impossible to clean up.

Pulling a colossal polar bear puppet, called Aurora, acclaimed British actor and screenwriter Emma Thompson joined Greenpeace in a protest against Shell’s drilling in the Arctic. Protesters remained parked outside Shell’s global headquarters for weeks, serving as a stark reminder to the oil corporation of the seven million people who have voiced opposition to its oil drilling in the Arctic. Aurora was filled with the names of seven million people who demanded an end to Arctic drilling. Photo by Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

3. Hundreds of Alaskans greeted President Obama at the ‘Rally to Confront the Glacial Pace of Political Action’

When President Obama visited Alaska to speak to communities impacted by climate change, hundred of Alaskans rallied to demand the President revoke Shell's drilling permits. The rally called Our Climate, Our Future included the Alaska NAACP, RedOil, Interfaith Climate Action Group, BAYAN Alliance, Unite Here Local 878, and Idle No More, as well as many individual speakers and activists.

When President Obama visited Alaska to speak to communities impacted by climate change, hundreds of Alaskans rallied to welcome the President to the state and ask him to cancel Shell’s drilling leases. The rally called Our Climate, Our Future included the Alaska NAACP, RedOil, Interfaith Climate Action Group, BAYAN Alliance, Unite Here Local 878, and Idle No More, as well as many individual speakers and activists. Photos by Mark Meyer / Greenpeace

4. Seattle led the world in activism to save the Arctic and keep fossil fuels in the ground, from kayaktivism to city council meetings and more

All year, from the Paddle in Seattle to the Seattle Draws the Line March to protests at public hearings about the city's port, Seattle proved itself to be the epicenter of some of the most courageous and effective environmental activism in the country.

All year, from the huge community-organized Seattle Draws the Line March, to the Paddle in Seattle, where hundreds of people in kayaks and boats surrounded Shell’s drilling rig to impassioned protests at public hearings about Shell’s access to the city’s port, Seattle proved itself to be the epicenter of some of the most courageous and effective environmental activism in the world. Photos by N. Scott Trimble / Greenpeace and Marcus Donner / Greenpeace

5. Thousands of people across the world marched and took to the water for a march against Arctic oil

Untitled design (2)

More than 1000 people marched through the city centre of Helsinki on July 3rd this summer to protest Shell’s Arctic oil plans. Elsewhere in Helsinki’s harbor, another group with canoes, kayaks and a sailing boat protested near icebreakers that were contracted to join Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet later in the year. Photos by Miikka Pihlajamäki / Greenpeace

6. More than a dozen communities across the United States rallied on land and on water to say #ShellNo

From Detroit—home to the most polluted zip code in Michigan—to San Francisco, to Alaska, in front of the White House, and a dozen other places in between, people across the country participated in the nationwide #ShellNo Day of Action this summer to send President Obama a clear message: Arctic oil drilling is not the answer to runaway climate change.

From Detroit—home to the most polluted zip code in Michigan—to San Francisco, from Alaska to the White House, and a dozen other places in between, people across the country participated in the nationwide #ShellNo Day of Action this summer to send President Obama a clear message: Arctic oil drilling is not the answer to runaway climate change. Photos by ArcticShellNo / Flickr

7. Six Greenpeace activists scaled Shell’s drilling rig to send a message and save the Arctic

Greenpeace activists have rigged a 'Save the Arctic' banner showing an Arctic Owl and containing the signatures of millions of supporters on a leg of the Polar Pioneer oil rig in the Pacific Ocean. Six Greenpeace climbers have intercepted an Arctic-bound Shell oil rig in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 750 miles north-west of Hawaii and have scaled the 38,000 tonne platform. The six, from the USA, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and Austria, sped towards the Polar Pioneer, which Shell intends to use to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea, in inflatable boats launched from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza.

Greenpeace activists rigged a ‘Save the Arctic’ banner showing an Arctic Owl and containing the signatures of millions of supporters on a leg of the Polar Pioneer oil rig in the Pacific Ocean, a massive component of Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet. The six Greenpeace climbers intercepted an Arctic-bound Shell oil rig in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 750 miles northwest of Hawaii and scaled the 38,000 ton platform for the action, where they remained for six days drawing attention and support from around the world. Photo by Vincenzo Floramo / Greenpeace

Shell is the fourth-largest company in the word. It has a lot of political power. Sure, Shell might want us to think its decision to pull out of Arctic drilling was purely economical, but everyone knows that’s not true. Every move Shell made as it inched towards the icy Arctic waters was under intense public scrutiny.

Shell has privately admitted that it didn’t expect so much public opposition. And in the oil company’s own statement on why it decided to abandon Arctic drilling operations, Shell cites a “challenging regulatory environment” as one key reason for halting its search — thanks to your activism.

The fight to save the Arctic isn’t over yet. We’re going to need to find a way to keep other oil companies out and make drilling in the region off-limits — for good. It’s time to turn the energy from Shell halting its search for Arctic oil into a revolution against fossil fuels.

Look at all that we’ve been able to accomplish together. Think about what more we can do. Stay tuned.

April Glaser

By April Glaser

April is a mobilization specialist for Greenpeace USA's online team, focusing on the Arctic campaign. Prior to Greenpeace, April was an organizer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where she worked on a wide range of digital rights issues; her writing has appeared in Slate and Wired, to name a few.

We Need Your Voice Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.