I’m getting ready to sail north to bear witness to something environmentally-minded Americans have been fighting for years to avoid: drilling for oil in the Arctic. But while we have been appealing to keep the drills from piercing the fragile Arctic ecosystem, adding to climate change the awful threat of an oil spill, some of the richest companies in the universe, like Shell, have been lining up their golden ducks to do that very thing: drill in icy waters to extract more fossil fuels only to have them burned and returned to our ever-warming atmosphere. Why? We all know the answer – for the money! Certainly, not because it is better for the polar bears who are dying as their home melts beneath them. And not because it’s better for Alaska Native communities in places like Shishmaref where homes are falling into the sea as global temperatures have begun to thaw the permafrost that long-anchored their villages in place. Drilling for oil in this fragile and rapidly changing place – which even without a spill brings pollution, destruction and distress to the region’s marine mammals and habitat – is like pouring gasoline on a forest fire.
But, we all need to drive our cars, and run our computers, you say, and we mustn’t be dependent on evil axis nations for our fuel, so that’s why Shell must drill in the precarious Arctic, right? We have oil in America after all! Buying American is good, and it will make us independent, right? Wrong. Sure, Shell’s PR folks have a way of making that story sound right, but really, it’s just a cover for their insatiable addiction to the billions of dollars they will rake in at an unbearable cost to life on earth. George W. Bush taught us what kind of actions can be sanctioned by our Country when fear guides our judgment. But, the facts tell us that there is no way to drill our way to domestic security. Our nation holds about 2% of the world’s oil reserves, but we use 20%. I’m not a math wiz but I can see that sucking every barrel out of America’s territory will not free us. The path to energy independence is the same one that gives us a chance of averting global climate change disaster: we must move to clean renewable sources of energy and leave the fossil fuels in the ground. That’s a win-win for the people and the planet, but not so much for Shell. They want the money they can make, no matter the cost. If Shell was willing to pay $2 billion for the lease rights to drill in the Arctic how much money do you figure they expect to make off of extracting those fossil fuels from the sea floor and selling it to us to burn? Exponentially more, I expect.
That’s why I am getting ready to sail to the Arctic on Greenpeace’s Esperanza to meet Shell and bear witness to this injustice. I believe that when enough people know what Shell is up to, and what is at stake in the Arctic, and across the globe, that we will make our collective voices heard. It has always been true that the one thing that can stand up to the wealthiest corporations is the power of the people united. Why would we let Shell, the fifth largest company in the world, go and drill our beautiful Arctic, jeopardize our final frontier, and drive us into eye of climate change that will wreak havoc on our planet if we don’t need to? I believe that when people see Shell for what they are; a greedy rich company, with an insatiable addiction for the world’s fossil fuel resources regardless of the cost to all of us, we will stand up and say enough is enough!
Let’s face it. Shell needs an intervention. As an oiloholic, they are incapable of stopping on their own. They are sick and just can’t put the drill away without help. How many sad stories are there of alcoholics who have drowned their families for their beverage binges, losing everything, becoming destitute, and even dying for just one more drink? The analogy fits, and we are the global family facing drowning as temperatures and seas rise, hurricanes rage out of control, and death comes by drought and fire, and our oceans acidify becoming bereft of life and fish to catch. Shell is an example of what happens when addiction takes over, and the addict is out of control. It’s not pretty, and it can be deadly unless you get help and leave the bottle on the shelf, or in this case, leave the oil in the ground.
We, the people, the global family at risk of being destroyed by this oiloholic illness must intervene. Maybe it’s easier to see Shell as suffering from a sickness that they are powerless to change, and not just lacking the self-control to do what is right. Together with many of our colleagues and supporters, we delivered more than one million comments to President Obama yesterday, calling on him to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic. As we have seen, it is not easy for our president to withstand the intense voracious lobbying pressure of Big Oil. He won’t be able to stand up to Shell, and the others that will come after, without a massive public outcry. And just like the microcosm of a single family trying to find the way to stop the destruction of the alcoholic amongst them, we must struggle to bring a sensible yet firm and loving voice to bear: ENOUGH is ENOUGH. Mr. President it’s time to take away the drill. There is a healthier way forward, and we will hand you the political will to go that way, starting today.