Several months ago, I found myself on the precipice of committing a crime. I was crouched in darkness with a bunch of Greenpeace activists, preparing to occupy a Shell drilling ship bound for the Arctic. I was suppressing the urge to run for the hills, to leave these greenies to it, to go back to being a mother in the ‘burbs. But that very fact – that I am a mother – was also the reason that I was there.
So I went ahead, and in the Auckland District Court this morning, I pleaded guilty to the charge of Unlawfully Boarding a Ship. In fact my activist colleagues and I stayed on that ship for four days doing our utmost – by hanging banners, doing media interviews, or writing blogs - to tell the world that Shell has to be stopped from going to the Arctic.
This afternoon, as I write this, I am a free woman. I’ve been remanded on bail, to be sentenced in September. For a while, we were all facing burglary charges. This wasn’t because we took anything, but because technically, under New Zealand law, by boarding a ship without permission you can be charged with burglary.
No one in their right mind would want to be labelled as a burglar. But had the police insisted on my being tried under that charge, I would still be just as proud of what I did. When the law allows a company like Shell to flagrantly and knowingly ignore the realities around the impossibility of cleaning up oil in the Arctic environment, or the fact that - thanks to mankind’s burning of fossil fuels - there may be no Arctic sea ice by the summer of 2030, then my fellow activists and I had a moral right to (peacefully) break that law.
The Arctic ice cap acts as the world’s air conditioner. Scientists warn that without it our children will certainly inherit a world blighted by increasingly frequent extreme weather events, amongst the other many and varied effects of climate change .
Thus, Big Oil’s desire to profiteer from its destruction could be termed ‘anti-human’ - not good business, I would have thought.
And make no mistake; Shell going into the Arctic is a game-changer. It is the first of the big oil companies to move on extreme Arctic oil. It plans to go through with its plunder, even though estimates are that there is only another three years worth of the global oil supply down there.
It is clear that we have to move away from fossil fuels anyway, so let’s do it while there is still an Arctic to save.
It’s time for everyone with an interest in the future – which of course includes all of us - to tell those who would perpetrate these crimes against us, themselves, and all the world’s other species, that they must stop. The oil supermajors must stay out of the Arctic, and must stop their rush into deeper and deeper waters around the world.
We must tell the oil companies that their survival depends as much as ours on a shift to clean energy. Anything else is a poisoned cup for our children.