• The perilous space between an oil tanker and a harbour

    Blogpost by Kumi Naidoo - May 2, 2014 at 23:09 Add comment

    This morning, one of the busiest harbours in the world was the backdrop for a citizen action to do what governments are seemingly unable or unwilling to; reject arctic oil drilling and stand up to the single-minded and ecologically harmful greed of corporate interests.

    Protest Against Arctic Oil Shipment in Rotterdam. The Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, paragliders and Greenpeace inflatables protest against the first shipment of Arctic oil in the harbour of Rotterdam. The Russian oil tanker Mikhail Ulyanov is transporting oil from the Gazprom drilling platform Prirazlomnaya to Rotterdam harbour. 05/01/2014 © Ruben Neugebauer / Greenpeace

    Buoyed by over five million Arctic Defenders, the Greenpeace activists put themselves between the oil tanker Mikhail Ulyanov – a 258-meter long monster whose wake stretches all the way back to the Prirazlomanaya oil platform – and the port.

    The Ulyanov's hold contains the first oil to be produced by the Gazprom-owned arctic drilling rig. A rig which I and Greenpeace know intimately. Not too long ago, seven of the activists arrested for today's peaceful protest were the very same people who spent two months in a Russian prison for standing up to Gazprom in September of last year

    We again find ourselves facing-off against the rig and what it produces. We do this because it represents the reckless exploitation of the Arctic and the lengths that Big Oil will go to protect their pockets – be it lying about their readiness to deal with an inevitable Arctic oil spill or the illegal jailing of activists who showed the world that profit, for some, will always trump the environment.

    While the Marshall islands sink, tornadoes tear up the Midwest in the USA and the Himalayas themselves begin to crumble, at every altitude, and every place on our fragile planet, we are seeing the terrible harm that companies like Shell and Gazprom perpetuate upon the environment. And these companies know exactly what they are doing. They no longer deny complicity as Exxon pointed out in their latest risk assessment in which they said world's climate policies are "highly unlikely" to stop them from selling fossil fuels far into the future. But, of course, they don't really need to hide their accountability. They know that governments struggle for footing on the slippery slope of pure greed. The contact books in the halls of power, after all, are packed tightly with the business cards of the resource exploiters of the world.

    So today, filled with the courage and conviction of our supporters, we stepped into the breach left undefended by many of our leaders. In many ways, today was yet another day in what has become a common occurrence across the globe; as people of all creed, colour and political persuasion defy illegitimate authority and take a stand against business as usual.

    And there will be many more days like today, and they will happen more frequently, because we are driven and tireless. As every new person joins the chorus, the world's decision makers must either act against environmentally harmful industries or admit their irrelevance and step aside.

    This is not a simple question of protest, it is about advocacy. It is about having the courage to stand in the way of old fossil fuel addictions and speak up for new, sustainable sources of power. We are demanding arctic protection, we are demanding clean, safe and, frankly, peaceful renewable energy systems, we are demanding climate protection, we are demanding that people and the planet are put before polluters and profit.

    If we want new technologies and clean energy systems to emerge and flourish we will need to act together to turn the tanker of old power systems and to break the vicious cycle of greed and corruption that is bringing our life support systems to the brink of chaos. Join us.

    Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.