When I moved to Seattle, WA last September I was struck by one lasting impression, and it wasn’t the rain.
Seattle is inescapably a port city. From the container ships coming and going from Harbor Island to the massive fishing fleets docked in Ballard you can never lose sight of the fact that this place is a gateway to the Pacific.
It wasn’t till March that the full meaning of this really occurred to me when I saw one of the harbor’s guests, the Kulluk. The Kulluk is a towering, 30 year old, drill rig owned by Shell oil. Any day now the Kulluk, along with its sister vessel, the Noble Explorer, will sail to the Arctic to take advantage of the melting sea ice caused by global warming to begin exploratory oil drilling.
Shell is the first company to rush into the Arctic this year, but several other international oil companies are lining up to follow in the energy giant’s wake. The company plans to drill wells in the remote Beaufort and Chukchi seas, places where polar bears, whales and walruses have lived without interference for thousands of years. Melting sea ice is already threatening these animals, and the arrival of heavy industrial equipment could have very serious consequences for their survival. Not the mention the risk of a disastrous spill!
So Seattle, which prides itself in sustainability, is being used as a gateway to destruction.
But there’s hope, if millions of people around the world rise up and demand it we can protect the the Arctic from dangerous drilling for the people and wildlife that live there.
This weekend I witnessed this hope when Greenpeace’s ship, the Esperanza, arrived in Seattle. From here it will begin its “Save the Arctic” tour, for which I’ll be on board.
We’ll be sailing north to shadow the Kulluk and Noble Discovery in the Arctic. While keeping its eye on Shell, the “Save the Arctic” tour will also connect the world to the Alaskan Arctic.