Editorial: We’re standing with Greenpeace – make the Arctic a no go area for big oil

Photo credit: Will Rose / Greenpeace.
You may have noticed that we have extensively covered the Greenpeace Arctic protest story about which 28 activists and two journalists have been detained in Murmansk in Russia awaiting trial for ‘piracy’ against an oil platform in the Pechora Sea. Their crime is allegedly highlighting the dangers that drilling for oil in the Arctic poses to our global environment.

The retreating ice and resulting opportunities
When deciding which side you are on in this absurd stalemate, is the paradoxical fact that the sole reason oil companies can now move forward with Arctic drilling ambitions is that climate change has melted the Arctic ice that previously stood in the way, opening up the possibility for oil drilling, more industrial fishing and new shipping routes. All of this is sanctioned by governments of the Arctic nations.

A call to protect the Arctic
This blog is of the belief that Arctic oil drilling should not even be on the table; the fact that it’s even being discussed is deeply concerning. We support Greenpeace’s wish to protect the Arctic as one of the last wild frontiers of the world, and are against industrializing this stunning and richly biodiverse part of the world. Furthermore, we consider Russia’s handling of this episode deeply regrettable and urge each of the 18 countries who have crew member’s detained to follow the Netherland’s example in launching legal cases against Russia, requesting the immediate release of the activists and two journalists.

Legalities and accountability
The activists who tried to scale the Gazprom oil rig in the Pechora Sea three weeks ago broke the law should be tried for trespass, a charge they are more than willing to accept. But accusing them of ‘piracy’ is absurd; President Putin himself has stated it is an ill founded accusation and its a shame he is not on the same page as his own courts in Murmansk. The remaining activists and journalists who were not directly involved in the action should be released immediately; detaining journalists who were on board simply to cover the activity is a breach of democracy and human rights. Furthermore, its important to point out that  the Russian authorities themselves broke several international laws when they boarded and seized the Arctic Sunrise, a Dutch ship, in international waters.

Russia’s unexplored renewables potential
The Russian economy is heavily reliant on its natural resources and as such the country has plans to exploit all of them. But what of its abundant renewable energy sources which it is leaving barely untouched? Russia is by far the biggest landmass on earth, with perfect conditions for both wind, solar and biomass generation. Developing these resources would give the Russian economy new wind in its sails and lessen the profound pressure on its on and offshore fossil fuel reserves.

Why is this renewables potential not being exploited more? Such a move would unquestionably be welcomed by rural and Indigenous populations alike, especially those in Siberia who suffer constantly from the repercussions of onshore oil spills; a sadly largely unreported catastrophe in the mainstream international media. Renewable energy projects would be a win win for these communities as well as the Russian state,  produce secure energy for the region whilst allowing rural communities to continue to live of the land, as they have done for generations long before big oil arrived.

The fraternity of big oil and the State

So why is none of this happening? Sadly the answer is likely to lie with the Russian establishments less than subtle association and connection with its oil companies, resulting in lucrative income from the exploitation of its abundant fossil fuel reserves. If only these companies could follow the example of some of their international competitors and invest more heavily in exploring renewables as part of a ‘transition strategy’ into the future. The world would feel a slightly safer place to be in.

Sub edited by Kirstie Wielandt

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