Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Who Controls The Fate Of The Arctic 30?

28 Greenpeace protesters and 2 journalists still languish in a prison in Russia for protesting against Arctic oil drilling.

One of those arrested, Russian born American citizen Dima Litvinov, faces becoming the third generation of his family to be a political prisoner.

The others include six people from the UK; Frank Hewetson who, as he's worked for Greenpeace forever I've known for years, Iain Rogers and Alex Harris from Devon, Anthony Perret from Wales, Phillip Ball from Oxford and freelance videographer Kieron Bryan. 

I met Kieran's aunt in Liverpool last month and she told me something of how this is affecting the family. In truth though the whole of the Greenpeace extended family is very sad at what's happened.

They are no longer charged with Piracy, which is good news, but the charge of 'hooliganism in an organised group' carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and is the offence for which members of the band Pussy Riot received two years in prison. This is very worrying, especially as you are now less likely to be acquitted in a Russia court today than when Stalin was around.

It's a difficult time for activists, especially as it's not clear if anything we've done to date has made any difference. It may even have made things worse. The key question is whenever you are planning a campaign, who do you have to influence?

Greenpeace seem to be pulling as many of the levers of power as it has access to. There has been a debate in the House of Commons, in which the failure of the British government to take any useful action was raised by Ben Bradshaw MP and the Dutch government has approached the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to protest the violation of its sovereignty over the raid on the Netherlands registered Arctic Sunrise.

Meanwhile Greenpeace has protested against Gazprom at a Champions League football match they sponsored, at a yacht race (where they were attacked by a knife wielding member of the crew) and on the Eiffel Tower.

Gazprom appear to be the key player here and may well have the power to free our activists. After raiding the Arctic Sunrise the coastguard radioed back to the Gazprom rig that they had "provided assistance as requested". Italian oil company Eni appears to think Gazprom can free the activists, as their CEO has asked them to intervene. Eni though are a junior partner and so have more to lose here than the Russians. However Gazprom have another partner who may be more influential.

Shell and Gazprom appear to be doing a 'Good Cop, Bad Cop' routine in the Arctic. Shell are the caring modern company which gets nominated for sustainability awards. They may be a strange candidate for a sustainability award. Indeed, even they seem to have their doubts, as they once confessed that a "a sustainable oil company is a contradiction in terms" (Shell's 'confession' is hidden away on page 52 of this 1998 report as a 'personal view')

By contrast Gazprom seem to be happy to play the role of the thug, although they too produce a glossy sustainability report in which they freely admit to a 39% increase in the amount of crap they pump into the environment. However Shell and Gazprom are actually closely allied in the quest for Arctic oil, and Gazprom could not operate without access to Shells' technology.

Greenpeace is therefore asking for as many people as possible to contact Shell to ask them to pressure Gazprom.

Please do this for the Arctic 30.

This is a battle between soft power and moral right on the one hand and hard power and corporate greed on the other. I don't know who will win, but I know on which side I stand.

Thirty things you can do for the Arctic 30

Write to the Arctic 30 to show your support.

No comments: