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Greenpeace director speaks on drilling

| Tuesday, February 24, 2015

On Sunday, Feb. 22, Saint Mary’s sophomore and student government association (SGA) sustainability chair, Mikhala Kaseweter, held a viewing to watch Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard host a live streaming party. During the live stream, Leonard expanded upon reasons why we must prevent Shell from drilling in the Arctic and how we can stop this from happening.

GreenpeaceCaitlyn Jordan

According to their website, Greenpeace USA is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Leonard kicked off the live stream by describing her experience on her voyage to the Arctic and detailing the unspeakable beauty and complex ecosystem of the vast region.

“Just from the natural perspective, it is a gorgeous place,” Leonard said. “It is the air conditioner of the planet. The melting of the ice caps not only threatens habitats and releases the major fossil fuel, methane, into the atmosphere, but it also opens up space for oil companies to drill.”

The major oil company, Shell, plans on obtaining permission from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Obama Administration to begin drilling for oil in the Arctic this summer. However, Leonard explained that the stakes for this are extremely high.

“The Arctic is treacherous and dangerous place in general, let alone a difficult place to drill for oil,” she said. “The government has estimated that there will be a 75 percent chance of an oil spill. The effects of the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico would be minuscule compared to an oil spill in the Arctic.”

Leonard also brings to attention that Shell has attempted drilling in the Arctic before, referring to “The New York Times” article published on Dec. 30, “The Wreck of the Kulluk.” According to Leonard, the article emphasizes that The Kulluk, Shell’s previous oil rig, could not handle the arctic conditions and ran aground, putting the entire crew and the surrounding ecosystem in imminent danger.

“I always get asked, ‘What can we do to stop the drilling?’ The reality is that science and economics are on our side,” Leonard said. “It is looking like the government is going to give Shell the green light to drill. We must turn the volume up on this issue.”

Leonard continued her live stream by noting that drilling in the Arctic is a worldwide issue, sharing that her colleagues in Germany have noticed that every single politician in Germany agrees that climate change is one of the most crucial issues of today’s world. For example, in October of 2014 in Copenhagen, Denmark, the 40th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was held, she said. One result of this session was an agreement among nations that the Earth’s climate cannot raise more than 2 degrees Celsius or there will be drastic consequences. According to the IPCC, among the many circumstances that must be abided to achieve this, one is that the Arctic must remain untouched by fossil fuel companies, she said.

“People ask me if it’s hard [to be an activist]. I say it would be hard not to — to just sit by and not do anything to save the planet,” Leonard said. “We can never compete with Shell on the money front, but we have more people. Our next move is happening from March 16-20, and we are aiming to get over 10,000 people calling the White House. We want you all to call the White House. We are going to bombard the White House with calls to save the Arctic.”

At the end of the viewing, Leonard held a question and answer session.

Upon being asked by Kaseweter, who is also a member of Greenpeace USA, whether other organizations have united to help protect the Arctic, Leonard responded that others are indeed working towards this goal.

“…however, Greenpeace does have some unique tools that they bring to the table — we actually own ships we bring into the arctic,” she said.

Kaseweter said it is important to recognize the issues that the earth faces.

“I care about the environment and I believe in civil obedience even in this Democratic government today,” Kaseweter said.

Kaseweter said she put this viewing together because it was “Annie Leonard and GreenPeace coming together, my two loves. And I also cannot wait to call the White House.” 

According to Greenpeace’s website, the very latest news on the subject is that the Obama Administration has proposed ideas to expand the protections of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; however, the U.S. Department of Interior has also proposed its new drilling plan for 2017-2022, which includes Arctic drilling.



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