Thursday, 23rd February 2012: The TV star Lucy Lawless - star of hit shows Spartacus and Xena, Warrior Princess - has boarded a Shell contracted oil drillship to prevent it from leaving Auckland, New Zealand for US waters off Alaska.
The 43 year old mother of three joined Greenpeace activists to climb onto the vessel in a dramatic early morning protest. She says that Shell's exploratory oil drilling program threatens to devastate the fragile Arctic environment and speed up global warming.
Speaking from the ship she said:
"I'm here today acting on behalf of the planet and my children."
"Deep-sea oil drilling is bad enough, but venturing into the Arctic, one of the most magical places on the planet, is going too far. I don't want my kids to grow up in a world without these extraordinary places intact or where we ruin the habitat of polar bears for the last drops of oil."
The Noble Discoverer, scheduled to drill three exploratory oil wells this summer in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska, was blocked from leaving the port of Taranaki for its 6,000 nautical mile journey by Greenpeace New Zealand activists who boarded the vessel and occupied the drilling derrick, equipped with enough supplies to last for several days.
"We've taken action today to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic, where this reckless company wants to exploit the melting ice to make billions more in profit," said Greenpeace US Deputy Campaign Director Dan Howells. "Shell must keep the Noble Discoverer in port, or risk a catastrophe in Alaska worse than the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico."
Shell is the first major international oil company to make exploitation of the Arctic a major focus. If the Noble Discoverer strikes oil this summer, other global oil giants will quickly follow and spark an Arctic oil rush. Earlier this week, the Department of Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement approved Shell's Oil Spill Response Plan for the Chukchi Sea.(1) It included devices for cleaning up a spill including capping and containment systems and ice deflection barriers that Shell admits have never been properly tested except in laboratories or on paper. (2)
Shell has a very tight window in which to drill for oil. Frigid temperatures, extreme weather conditions and a highly remote location pose unprecedented challenges (3), and make an Arctic oil spill virtually impossible to contain and clean up. According to a senior official at a Canadian firm that specializes in oil-spill response, "there is really no solution or method today that we're aware of that can actually recover [spilled] oil from the Arctic." (4)
Total estimated Arctic oil reserves would satisfy just three years of current global oil demand, but would both contribute significantly to carbon emissions and pose a grave risk to the local eco-system. (5) Numerous reports show that through energy efficiency and clean energy, global energy needs can be met while leaving the Arctic untouched.. (6).
"Companies like Shell are taking advantage of the Arctic sea ice melt to drill for the fossil fuels that continue to drive our climate crisis," said Howells. "We need to cut our dependency on fossil fuels, and use the trillions set to be invested in dirty oil to ramp up the vehicle efficiency and the rollout out new clean technologies. That way we can protect the Arctic, fight climate change and spark a bonanza in green jobs."
Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.