Activists demand Obama save the Arctic from Shell oil exploration
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Activists from a broad coalition of environmental groups including Friends of the Earth, Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity, Ocean Conservancy and Alaska Wilderness League, converged yesterday in front of the White House to demand that President Obama take bold, courageous steps to prevent Royal Dutch Shell from destroying the Arctic’s invaluable ecology with harmful oil drilling.
Under the name M15, the May 15th “Million Mobilization to Save the Arctic,” coalition activists heard from environmental leaders, native Alaskans, and others in working in solidarity to protect the Arctic Ocean and the people and wildlife that depend on it from rapacious oil extraction. Together, we delivered a petition to President Obama signed by more than one million Americans, including 18,314 Friends of the Earth activists.
Speakers emphasized the dangers in allowing multinational corporations like Shell to drill in the Arctic’s remote Chukchi and Beaufort seas, delicate ecosystems that have long sustained some of America’s most iconic wildlife: polar bears, walrus, ice seals, bowhead whales, beluga whales, eiders and others. Representatives of some of these beloved species were among the protesters, including a fully costumed polar bear and walrus that rallied the crowd during chants and speeches. Many event attendees also donned polar bear masks to represent the biological toll of oil drilling.
A key point highlighted during the rally is the enormous risk and uncertainty surrounding oil exploration in the Arctic. While the Arctic Ocean’s central role in regulating Earth’s climate and sustaining coastal communities is well established, there is a conspicuous absence of scientific knowledge regarding the effects of industrial activity on this fragile, culturally significant marine ecosystem.
Moreover, as Dr. Brent Blackwelder, President Emeritus of Friends of the Earth, reminded the protesters, “Shell’s horrendous track record of oil pollution in Nigeria,” where the people of the Niger Delta have over the years suffered thousands of spills, exposes “the lie to its claims to be able to drill safely.”
Despite these pressing concerns, the Department of the Interior and other federal agencies are still considering approvals for Arctic drilling leases sold by the Bush administration. Coalition protesters were clear in their emphatic demand that President Obama halt this process immediately.
Blackwelder echoed many of the protesters’ shared sentiments when he stated: “There is no shortage of sound plans for getting off oil and coal over the next several decades. These plans offer the route to a less polluted planet, a healthier population, and a way to reduce the risk of runaway climate destabilization.”
For protesters, saving the Arctic means sustaining our planet.