Common folk like us should feel proud that Shell pulled out of their multi-billion-dollar drilling endeavor in the Arctic. But honestly, who at the top of the company thought it was a good idea to go against all of the red flags that popped up en route to their goals? For a surefire three years, Shell has encountered problem after problem with this project, but didn’t fathom giving up because of the benefits they thought Arctic oil would produce. They just saw so many moneybags that their ability to reason seemingly vanished. What did it take for Shell to cancel plans and stop exploring for oil?
In May, the Dutch company’s leases were renewed by the Obama administration (which clearly contradicts their outlined plans to help mitigate U.S. sources of pollution that lead to climate change), according to MSNBC. Then, their ice breaker ship, the Fennica, suffered a gash to its side, and had to sail back to Portland to be repaired. Could you imagine what the president of Shell was thinking at this point? Of all the places for repairs, Portland? Land of local record stores and artisan bread shops?
Arguably one of the most satisfying moments of my summer was coming home from the beach to see Greenpeace protestors rappelling from the Portland’s St. John bridge. Although the icebreaker ended up being escorted through by police a day later, a human face was put to this dilemma. Real, live people care about keeping the pristine waters of the Arctic in their natural state.
That warning sign was the latest of many for Shell. In the past, rigs have floated ashore and had holes ripped in their pipes, costing the company billions and setting them back from their goal. These red flags just weren’t enough to hold Shell back. And we really did get pretty lucky if we consider that their reasons to abandon the Arctic were indications of oil that was “not sufficient to warrant further exploration.” Even so, activists placed intense pressure on Shell, from kayaking to blocking ships to climbing the actual rigs and setting up camp. Without it, Shell may have decided to continue exploring the Arctic for the right oil pocket.
The issues here are the blatant exploitation of resources, disrespect of the environment, lack of scientific evidence and disinterest in the public opinions that large corporations make a profit off of. It’s important to question if these people value anything other than money, even their children or future generations. We as citizens have to be able to question the motives and forces that are threatening any and all lives, even when a company insists that they are with the environment.
We need constant demonstrations of the impact large corporations have when they misuse the planet’s natural resources and hurt wildlife in order to make a profit. But will we ever see these stories in the news for more than a day? Or do they have to be glossed over and replaced with more glamorous or politically pleasing stories due to concern of being targeted by these fear-mongering companies? How did we let it come to this?
When money is introduced to any idea, things get dirty. For example, for a company, it may be cheaper to produce or discard a certain product, and the goal to produce more while spending less often leads to waste and pollution. What factory owner wants to have to hire and pay more people in order to recycle some materials? And in our case, what oil company owner is going to care if sea levels rise as long as their cash pile rises too? The lack of concern that companies show simply to make a profit is absurd. Most of the time Americans are left in the dark about companies’ actions, and we have to rely on media to cover tough stories and keep us informed.
There has to be change, and nothing will come from an idle population. America is arguably becoming more aggressive, thanks to the generations that have grown up witnessing tolerant laws passed and seeing peaceful demonstrations make a difference. So it’s up to us to continue pressuring Congress and the president (including our new one in 2016) to make the right choices for our planet. There can never be an unproductive day — it’s up to us to stay informed and maintain the intensity in fighting for our planet. With more demonstrations like the Greenpeace efforts, a real difference can be made.
What Shell proposed to accomplish exceeded all levels of apathy towards nature. We may have gotten lucky with this one, let’s hope no oil bubbles up in the Arctic anytime soon, but with thorough, engaging, loud and effective protests, perhaps companies with reckless pollution habits will be consistently held responsible.