The prospect of spending 15 hours illegally climbing the tallest building in Western Europe as a protest is not a happy one, however important the cause is. The fact that it is the 310m, recently completed Shard makes the situation yet more interesting, as it will be the only noteworthy event that ever takes place near the glorified office block. So who has surprised London with this awe-inspiring- and highly risky- stunt?
Six Greenpeace activists put in a good deal of training, work and planning to protest against Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the last truly unspoilt region: the Arctic. Few of you will be surprised to here that Greenpeace is behind it, as this is exactly the sort of direct action that has become their trademark. Though it can be extremely effective in raising public awareness of the issue (remember the fantastic No Dash For Gas stoppage of a power station last year) there is always the danger that coverage will be entirely focussed on the action itself. All I know today is that Shell has come under very little public pressure as yet, but maybe that’ll change.
Let’s examine the issue. Royal Dutch Shell is one of the usual gang of corrupt and hugely influential oil monoliths that has been lobbying hard for international permission to drill into the world’s last untapped oil reserves, which are in the polar regions. Ironically, drilling in the Arctic has only become possible due to the melting of ice as a result of climate change… caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Also, drilling there has been avoided in the past because of pressure from conservationists and the fact that it is a physically dangerous area to locate rigs. The fact is, however, the international community has reached the right degree of desperation to feed our oil addiction that the environment is just a secondary concern. As such, our governments have disregarded the inconvenient truth that, if an oil spill can happen in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico then weather conditions guarantee it in the Arctic.
If When there is a serious oil spill in the Arctic, the polar bears will cease to be a viable species, as will a number of seal species. An entire ecosystem, already in decline due to climate change, would be crippled due to corporate greed. One of the Shard climbers has written in a blog post, which can be found on Greenpeace’s website, that she’d been “training for something that [she’d] hope will help stop one of the most heartbreaking acts of wanton environmental destruction.” I can only applaud her for that, and hope this doesn’t merely become noted as the story of six people who climbed the Shard (London’s second ugliest building) and were arrested afterwoods.