“Good Try, George.”
by George Pletnikoff
June 6, 2010
What an interesting meeting with Royal Dutch Shell here on the shores of the Beaufort Sea, still frozen with ice, in Kaktovik Alaska. Representatives from Shell were huddled in the cafeteria of the hotel owned by Kaktovik Inupiak Corporation trying to tell us their understandings and technology is top notch and extremely safe. They want to begin drilling in the Beaufort beginning in 2011.
As Robert Thompson of Kaktovik announced that he is walking out of the meeting with all due respect to the representatives of Shell Oil in protest almost all of the thirty or so local people stood up and began leaving as NBC News filmed the exodus. I too joined the protest. Ms. Susan Childs, the meeting moderator, stood at the door thanking everyone as we left. When it was my turn to exit she touched me on my shoulder and said: Good try George. I simply responded thank you as I did not hear her clearly and left. Immediately in front of me was several young students visiting Kaktovik from Washington State. One of the young men immediately turned around and said to me: Good try? I thought you did a good job. I guess, meaning I must have asked good questions and made several good comments.
Good try, George. What does that mean and why did she make that statement? I guess she felt I had an agenda other than the one I felt I had. I asked about the safety of their work; the difference between shallow water drilling and deepwater drilling; how they were going to compensate the local people when a spill occurs. Because for all intents and purposes, the spill has already happened, at least here in Kaktovik. When one considers all the stress, anxiety, worry and grave concerns the people have been going through and are now dealing with in a heightened sense of the impending destruction to their homes and cultures, not to mention to their foods, they are already dealing with a spill. Was this a good try George? When I further made a statement agreeing with the coordinators explanation about being ready for wildlife clean up and restoration response to a spill and asked how they were going to deal with dirty people, meaning people dirtied by the spill, was this a good try George? Because the people, the Inupiats of Kaktovik and other Arctic Ocean villages are already suffering from so much anxiety and worry that their spirits are weakening to the point of saying, Whats the use. They never listen to us anyway! Why should we come to any more of these meetings? Lets hope they do not lose hope. Lets show them our support and let them know we hear their worries and concerns. Lets help them.
I have never visited Kaktovik before this trip. I have never seen the Arctic Ocean before this trip. But I have to confess, this is a magical place. Its amazing to look out over the still frozen Arctic Ocean and wonder about its wealth in terms of wildlife. It is amazing to stand on the shores of the Beaufort Sea, when all I have even done before now was talk about it in imaginary terms. I have come and I have seen. I have been thanked by so many local people at the meeting for being here. I was told by Shell Oil: Good try George. And yes, I now say, good try, because I hope we never give up trying to help our people and their lands.