Hear below from Victoria, one of the climbers scaling Europe’s tallest skyscraper to defend the Arctic.
With any luck, as you read this I’ll be clinging to the side of the Shard, hundreds of metres up in the sky.
But as I write this, with less than a week to go, I’m just feeling… tired. I have sores on my shoulders from training with backpacks full of weights, and every night brings tiresome dreams about carabiners and tangled ropes.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m training for something that I hope will help stop one of the most heartbreaking acts of wanton environmental destruction – drilling for oil in the Arctic. I’m over the moon that I can play any part in the mass resistance to this horrifying practice.
I’ve climbed for years, but this is the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on. I have a completely average fear of heights – not crippling, but certainly not absent. Am I scared? Hell yeah I’m scared. But I know that fear is only what you make of it. For me this is a personal act of bravery, and I hope that it can encourage anyone hesitating about taking action – no matter what scale – to take that step today.
So why exactly does this issue fill me with so much passion?
When I was a kid, I loved National Geographic documentaries. Described generously as ‘sensitive’, I was known to cry every time the lions would eat the gazelles. I’ve never stopped devouring nature documentaries and all things Attenborough, and although I’ve learned a bit more about the circle of life as it pertains to lions and gazelles, I’m still often moved to tears when I see human and animal suffering and the destruction of natural environments.
The thought of an oil spill in the Arctic makes me feel sick. In the past 30 years, so much summer Arctic sea ice has melted that Shell, Gazprom and others can now move in to drill for even more climate-wrecking oil. It’s vicious cycle of destruction. I hope that you can relate to this outrage, this sense of urgency that I feel – and turn it into action.
Sometimes, the closer you get to a big goal, the more impossible it seems. Once blurred and indistinct, it slowly comes into focus. And so do all the details, challenges and, beyond all, the sheer size of it.
I can see the top of the Shard from the window at work. Sometimes I look out at it and I just can’t wait to scale it. Other times I’ll be passing through London Bridge, and as I walk past the base I crane my neck to look up at the top, overcome by the enormity. At those times it seems impossible, utter madness to even attempt what we’re planning.
I think there’s a parallel here to the enormity of our goal of saving the Arctic. As an abstract idea? Sure, great. But as we near our goal, when the challenges come into even sharper focus, there will be doubt that we can accomplish something of this scale. We’re going to have our own fears, and there will be plenty of people telling us it’s impossible. But all that means is that we’re closer than ever before.
All I need to do is face down one building. But us, together as activists for the Arctic? We need to face down entire industries, governments, and a way of thinking that puts profit before the planet.
When I first started training for non-violent direct action with Greenpeace, I was told it’s helpful to have a soothing little mantra or saying that you could repeat to yourself when you’re scared or anxious awaiting the start of an action.
This is kind of cheesily embarrassing, but I chose “together, what a difference we can make”. It helps remind me of the amazing things we can achieve together, of the support from all around the world. We wouldn’t be up this building without you. It’s so inspiring how we’re all working together to protect the Arctic, I swear I’m tearing up again just thinking about it.