Royal Dutch Shell, the number one company on Fortune’s Global 500 list, is threatening legal action against the Greenpeace network of environmental activists as the company forges ahead with plans to begin drilling for an estimated 90 billion barrels of Arctic oil in the next two decades.
Greenpeace, which is seeking to make the Arctic a global sanctuary from commercial and environmental exploitation, tweeted today, “As 1 million of you have signed up to #SavetheArctic, Shell threatens Greenpeace with legal action. http://act.gp/NGhcEg.”
“Yesterday in Amsterdam, I was served with an urgent fax from Shell, the world’s wealthiest oil company, whom in the past weeks Greenpeace offices have been vigorously and prominently campaigning against in the Save The Arctic drive,” blogged Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace’s International Executive Director on July 21st.
“The notice was a stern message from Shell lawyers, who are very worried that Greenpeace actions around the world this week 'have posed a real risk to Shell retailers... and the general public.' The letter concludes with a warning about commencing 'proceedings' against us, at 'any' time in the future,” continued Naidoo.
Using heart-tugging images, social media savvy, a video narrated by actor John Hurt (above), another featuring a homeless polar bear in London, Jude Law's voiceover and Radiohead (below), coordinated actions on the ground and slick sloganeering, the Greenpeace campaign has clearly resonated with consumers — and Shell has had enough, particularly in the wake of protests in the UK in the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games kick-off on July 27th. (Shell is not an Olympics sponsor, although BP is.)
The Save the Arctic campaign was launched on June 21st in protest against two offshore drilling sites, and "if Shell is successful this summer, an Arctic oil rush will be sparked and the push to carve up the region will accelerate."
Shell's counter-argument, as spelled out on its website, includes the comment that “The environmentalists could inadvertently harm marine mammals and pollute the very environs they seek to protect. Despite a restraining order by the U.S. District Court for Alaska directing Greenpeace not to come within a mile of Shell, the activists will rush into the fragile setting aboard a 237-foot ice-cutter with militaristic surveillance equipment, including an unmanned air drone and two submarines.”
The oil and gas giant has the backing of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, in lobbying government agencies to intervene. “Allowing intrusions by any group to disrupt or threaten federally permitted operations is a direct threat to the careful planning and safe operations necessary for these activities and puts in jeopardy those workers and our environment, as well as the subsistence interest of Alaska’s native peoples.”
Jackie Dragon, lead Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace USA counters, “We’re headed to the Arctic to show how little is known about this pristine ecosystem before Shell’s rigs move in to destroy it…We have to break this vicious cycle of corporate greed and work together to save the Arctic.”
Naidoo questions the real motive behind Shell’s threat of legal action. “Perhaps Greenpeace is too uncomfortably exposing the truth of Shell's competency to drill the Arctic. Perhaps 1 million names of support and the global media coverage of activism is too much light to bear. Or maybe, just maybe, these are the desperate actions of a company which is a slowly sinking ship, if you will, one whose current business strategy is limited, as more and more people mutiny, realising that we can no longer carry on with business as usual when it comes to plundering the planet.”