Shell’s spin doctors are citing disappointing results in their exploration well, the “high costs associated with the project,” and “the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska.”
But we all know that one of the biggest factors in this victory was the ShellNo uprising that started in the Pacific Northwest and spread across the planet. The tireless work of activists all over the country created costs that were finally too much for Shell to bear.
Because of the ShellNo movement, Shell’s Arctic drill fleet was blocked, stopped and harangued every step of the way by an armada of kayaks. Shell planned to drill two exploratory wells this summer, but because of international opposition, they were only able to drill one. Shell planned to drill in the Arctic for three months, but settled for less than two after being waylaid by kayaks in Seattle and then again in Portland by kayaktivists and climbers who blockaded Shell’s icebreaker.
The Guardian noted, “The Anglo-Dutch company had repeatedly stressed the enormous hydrocarbon potential of the far north region in public, but in private began to admit it had been surprised by the popular opposition it faced.”
This is not a time for complacency. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a time for celebration.
Let’s have a ShellNO party all over the Earth tonight. Then let’s get to work convincing President Obama that to truly secure his climate legacy, he must take Arctic Ocean drilling off the table for good.
Because this victory is only a part (albeit a big one) of protecting the Arctic from drilling, which is, in turn, only a part of dealing with a climate crisis that escalates every day. We have some tough battles ahead of us: explosive oil trains full of Tar Sands crude bound for overseas markets; the quiet but ever-present threat of the Keystone XL; fracking on our public lands; massive coal export terminals; the infuriatingly slow pace of government efforts to transition away from oil, gas and goal – the list goes on.
Perhaps most importantly, we have a responsibility to do better than previous generations of climate defenders in ensuring a truly just transition; that doesn’t leave low-income folks behind, or strip entire communities of financial and ecological resources; a transition informed by the people most impacted by climate change. Because the climate crisis is here, and it is already affecting not just polar bears and penguins, but huge swaths of the global population; the current refugee crisis is just one example of the devastation climate change can wreak when it works in tandem with destructive forces like globalization, militarization, extremism, and greed.
Our friends at the Climate Justice Alliance have written extensively about what a movement towards just transitions looks like; check out this piece for starters. And for more on what it looks like when frontline communities lead the way on climate activism (not just on paper, but in practice), check out this great piece on the underrecognized history of people of color fighting for climate justice.
So stay alert, stay tuned, and let this victory help you stay positive. We are winning.