The Yes Men Are Having Arctic Drilling Déjà vu

by The Yes Men

June 12, 2015

On Thursday in New York City, a Shell Oil “street team” celebrated the company’s risky Arctic drilling program by offering snow cones made from what they claimed was a shard of ancient iceberg. In this tasteless PR campaign, the garishly dressed crew offered to give passersby their “first taste of the last frontier.”

Check out video of the stunt below, via Rolling Stone:

OK, you caught us. The “street team” wasn’t really from Shell and those snow cones may or may not have been made with Arctic ice. With the help of Greenpeace, artist Miguel Luciano, and a crew of performers, we posed as oil company reps to help get the word out about Shell’s imminent plans to drill the Arctic.

Wasn’t drilling in the Arctic banned two years ago? Didn’t we win this thing?

Why yes, indeed! Shell launched a lobbying campaign to the tune of $4 billion and was granted a permit to drill in 2009. We did our part—working with Greenpeace—to call out Shell with the Arctic Ready website and even a giant launch party for their polar rigs in Seattle’s iconic Space Needle. That scene is one of the funniest in our new movie, The Yes Men Are Revolting, which is now in theaters across the country and available on demand.

Here is an exclusive clip from that #ShellFail action (enter the password ‘ShellParty’):

In 2013, due to intense public disapproval and the tireless work of individuals and groups like Greenpeace, Shell’s approval was suspended. This wasn’t just because of our action, of course, but because they committed so many blatant violations that they were deemed incompetent—even by government standards. Not to mention the fact that drilling in the Arctic is dangerous. Even the CEO of French oil giant Total said so publicly.

The success of the Arctic Ready action was that it put this into the public consciousness. These entities will be more likely to act as more people pressure their governments to wake up to the realities of climate change, publicize the rapacious greed of the oil industry, and reiterate the need for alternatives to fossil fuel.

But wait a minute! That action only worked a little bit. The drilling stopped for a few years.

That’s what we learned while filming The Yes Men Are Revolting. Struggles—the important ones—are long. That’s what makes movement-building so utterly necessary for us. No one can sustain engagement in this kind of work by self-propulsion alone. We need all individuals. All groups. Greenpeace is a steady oak in adverse winds in this fight with Shell and we’re lucky to work with them. There are far more people mobilized and fighting back now than there were three years ago. Just look at the inspiring group of kayaktavists that gathered in the Port of Seattle last month to give Shell’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig an ‘unwelcoming’ party seen and heard around the world.

Ready to say #sHellNo? Join our movement.

If you’re not ready to let Shell turn the Arctic into fodder for snow cones, there are plenty of ways to make your voice be heard.

You can fight back alongside the more than 7 million environmental activists around the globe telling Shell Oil not to rush headlong into environmental disaster.

You can watch The Yes Men Are Revolting, which has at its heart a hopeful message about fighting for change. Screenings are happening all over the country. Check for one near you.

Want to be a little more direct? Fantastic! Participate in the Incubator, an eight-week program for building your own project using the Action Switchboard, where action ideas find the collaborators—like you—that they need. You can also participate in the Week of Action, happening now until June 12, 2015. Expose the perils of rapacious greed running our world.


About the Authors

The Yes Men are impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them and otherwise giving journalists excuses to cover important issues. These days, they’re focusing all their energy on the Yes Lab, which helps activists use creative techniques to promote change.

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