As a Greenpeace lawyer, people often ask me whether I don’t feel hopeless, seeing how wealthy polluters can adjust laws to serve their needs. But a recent ruling makes me optimistic that might isn’t always right.
On a frigid morning in September, polar bears wandered through the forecourt of one of Shell’s largest fuel stations in the Netherlands. At the same time, activists hung bicycle locks around the fuel nozzles, while others explained that they were stopping fuel sales in protest against Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. Over the course of the morning, 72 out of about 600 Shell petrol stations in the country were similarly ‘frozen’.
Shell immediately filed a 100-page legal complaint. The suit had obviously been prepared well in advance, ready to stop those irksome environmentalists once and for all. The company wanted a court order permanently banning actions by Greenpeace or its sympathisers within 500 metres of all Shell properties worldwide, with an automatic penalty of €1 million per breach. Continue reading