The movement to save the Arctic has become a great story. It crystallises some of the big challenges of our time into something simple and compelling, a way for millions of people to make sense of the world and work together to improve it. For three years people across the world have joined together to seek a protected sanctuary around the north pole, and an end to destructive industry across the Arctic.
We’ve come a long way towards that vision. Today, over eight million people have joined our movement. We have helped force one of the richest oil companies on earth – Shell – into almost total retreat. Thirty brave people risked their liberty in Russia and helped put the issue under a fierce global spotlight. Arctic drilling now looks less likely than at any point in the last two decades, and it’s thanks to the incredible global community who make up this movement.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been just three years since we launched the campaign. In 2013 the Arctic was far from the political or financial agenda. The oil companies saw it as just another ‘play’, the logical next step in the hunt for the last drops of oil on earth. Politicians assumed that it would be carved up, exploited, sold. We set out to change this tired old story, to turn drilling for oil in the Arctic into a rallying call for people power.
We’ve seen real drama along the way. The sight of a giant icebreaker forced to turn around in Portland was an incredible symbol of what people working together can do. On the other side of the world, thousands rode bicycles in Bangkok to celebrate a part of nature they might never see. These are just two amongst hundreds of events, rallies and actions. It is impossible to list them all.
Behind the scenes, this campaign has chipped away at the foundations of power. Through working with big institutional investors we’ve helped transform the Arctic from a source of industry bravado to a place of massive risk, both financial and reputational. We’ve made it harder for companies looking to drill and fish in the far north to clean up their image through brand partnerships, diminishing their cultural influence. The impacts of this have extended beyond the Arctic circle, helping to weaken relationships between corporations and politicians elsewhere in the world.
And the politics are starting to change. Some of the most powerful countries in the Arctic now openly embrace an agenda of protection, not exploitation. We’re still some way from creating a sanctuary, but this dream seems more possible than ever before. We’ve put together a coalition of people, groups and cultural figures who see the importance of this work, and who lobby independently on its behalf.
We always hoped that the Arctic campaign could ripple outwards across the world. The past three years has shown this happening in ways we never expected. When we win the campaign and create an Arctic sanctuary, when the oil companies retreat and Indigenous Peoples are treated with the respect they deserve, we will turn these small ripples into great waves of change. Together, we will save the Arctic. Thank you for being a part of this movement!
If you haven’t already, join more than 8 million people worldwide who want to #SaveTheArctic.
Trillia Fidei-Bagwell is the Digital Engagement Team Leader for the Arctic campaign at Greenpeace International.