Artisan-built solar barge headed “Mosquito fleet” of “Kayaktivists” in protesting Shell’s presence and plans
Shell Oil is docking its drilling fleet in the Port of Seattle on the way to the Arctic—which has unleashed the outrage of many Puget Sound residents and politicians.
Organized protests were big news last weekend as the gigantic rig arrived—and Artisan has been proud to participate in and support the peaceful yet powerful resistance in a big way.
As proponents of—and active participants in—a clean and efficient new energy future, we at Artisan Electric are obviously on board with the many organizations that joined forces to stand up to Shell’s dangerous Arctic drilling plans.
A self-dubbed “mosquito fleet” assembled to protest Shell’s Seattle parking spot—conducting several water- and land-based actions against the oil giant from May 16-18 that garnered front-page news.
This fleet, part of a larger movement called “sHell No!” included a flotilla of kayaks and canoes calling themselves “Kakaytivists,” and a solar-powered barge called the People’s Platform.
Artisan powers protests with solar
Artisan literally got on board when the “sHell No!” coalition, including Vashon Island’s John Sellers (founder of the nonprofit other98.com), created the People’s Platform to draw attention to Shell’s abhorrent environmental and drilling track record with its costly and embarrassing accidents.
Artisan designed and built the solar-powered event barge with the help of volunteers and an Indiegogo campaign. The campaign raised an astonishing $19,634 by 422 people in just eight days (!) for this “festival of nonviolent resistance.”
This barge is a literal platform for speakers and performers, and for projecting images and messages from people all over the world to “Give Shell Hell!” and (as the campaign put it) “show what safe energy production REALLY looks like.”
For this couple of weeks, the 4,000-square-foot barge will power amplified speakers and high-illumination digital equipment with massive projections exposing Shell’s horrendous track record.
With the People’s Platform at its center, more than 200 boats (representing members of local and national environmental groups, activists and tribal leaders) gathered for the “Paddle in Seattle” on Saturday, May 16—to demonstrate their concerns about Shell’s plans and the climate crisis in an act of creative, people-powered resistance.
National press and collaboration
The barge, along with the volunteer armada of Kayaktivists, has received a tremendous amount of press—and the attention of major environmental orgs from the Sierra Club to Earthjustice to Greenpeace, many of which participated and posted photos and stories.
The activism has been reported on major national outlets from NPR to USA Today to MSNBC. In fact, Jen Williams—wife of Artisan president Jason Williams—was featured on MSNBC, reporting out live (from a kayak, of course!) on the movements intentions and key concerns. Even the BBC reported on the “Paddle in Seattle.”
350.org founder and celebrated environmental author Bill McKibben tweeted about the protests frequently, noting: “That Shell rig is big–but there’s lots more of us, and more all the time. A Bible story worth remembering: David won.”
Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, called for a focus on renewable energy in this time of climate change, rather than dirty fuels.
“Why would we invest in an energy source that scientists say is leading us to catastrophe?” Leonard said.
Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray concurred, saying “To prevent the full force of climate change, we need not continue with the past. It’s time to turn the page. Things like oil trains and coal trains and oil-drilling rigs are the past. It’s time to focus on the economy of the future. Clean energy, electric cars and transit, green homes and an environmentally progressive business community.”
The main, official protests culminated Monday, May 18, with a day of peaceful civil disobedience intended to shut down Shell operations at the Port. Hundreds of people representing 22 environmental groups gathered at the Duwamish Fishing Dock., shouting “Shell No.” They marched onto Spokane Street toward Terminal 5, shutting down traffic on the lower West Seattle bridge.
The coverage has continued even after the protests, bringing much-needed attention to this critical campaign. Just yesterday, “sHell No” and its efforts were covered by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!—raising all the key issues.
What’s next—and why
Although last weekend’s activities were a highlight, the fight will no doubt continue as individuals, activists and politicians recognize the folly of allowing drilling to threaten the immediate Arctic environs—as well as disturb the climate—when renewables like solar are so clean, efficient, effective, and increasingly accessible.
Seattleites first learned on January 8 that Shell would be hosting their Arctic drilling rigs in Terminal 5 of the Port of Seattle—planning to keep its rigs in Seattle except during the brief Arctic-summer drilling season. (The previous day, a study was announced showing that fossil fuels must be left in the ground in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.)
Further, Shell’s rigs arrived right around the five-year anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
The 307-foot-tall Polar Pioneer oil rig (fully half the height of the Space Needle) arrived Thursday, May 14—despite the fact that Seattle’s mayor has said that the Polar Pioneer rig doesn’t have proper permits to dock here.
Seattle city councilman Mike O’Brien was out on the water during last weekend’s protests in an orange kayak. He said from his boat, “The only way this thing comes into compliance is by leaving.”
The giant rig is the largest of Shell’s 25-vessel fleet in the Pacific Northwest—and is set to resume its controversial oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s North Slope.
The Chukchi Sea includes Wrangel Island, a remote haven of unique wildlife and one of the most protected wilderness regions in the world. It’s home to the largest population of Pacific walruses, and is the world’s largest denning ground for polar bears.
And it’s at risk of a major oil spill if Shell extracts oil in the Chukchi Sea.
Many orgs have noted that the company’s response plan completely omits any specific tactics or information to protect Wrangel Island—even though it has a horrendous track record when it comes to Arctic drilling.
Other98’s website notes that “the last time Shell tried to drill in the Arctic, it ended in crushed safety gear, a rig run aground, and eight felony convictions.”
In its disastrous Arctic drilling attempt in 2012, Shell caused a major accident when its rig the Kulluk ran aground off the Alaskan Coast. Its containment dome the Arctic Challenger, a big part of Shell’s oil spill response fleet, failed basic testing in the calm Puget Sound.
Plus, a recent report revealed the ineffectiveness of current oil spill technology when applied to an oil spill in the Arctic. (See “Why Cleaning Up An Arctic Oil Spill Would Be Next to Impossible.”)
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management—the U.S. government agency responsible for regulating Arctic drilling off the Alaskan coast—estimates the probability of at least one large (as in thousands of barrels!) oil spill over the lifetime of the lease.
“Wrangel Island is rightfully one of the most protected wilderness areas in the world, but its legal status alone won’t keep out an oil spill…. we cannot let a reckless oil giant spoil this haven of ancient biodiversity,” said Greenpeace’s Senior Research Specialist Tim Donaghy.
The risks of drilling to the climate worldwide are well-established, and are as great as those to the unique wilderness areas that Shell seeks to exploit and endanger.
It’s no wonder so many of us are determined to keep Shell from making our home a waypoint on this needless and misguided mission. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what’s coming. We won’t stand by while a profit-hungry company willfully and irresponsibly ignores a looming catastrophe.
It’s time for renewables, not oil
The Arctic holds about 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of its oil, according to Shell’s website.
So far, the company has invested about $7 billion looking for oil in the Arctic Ocean. It expects to find “decades” worth of oil there.
But as we well know, the sun can offer vastly more than a few decades—and without the havoc and destruction that drilling wreaks.
Statistics from a recently released Solar Energy Industries Association report show an ongoing unprecedented solar boom, demonstrating everything from solar’s efficiency and cost-effectiveness to the exponential job growth it’s supporting.
We’re proud to be part of an energy future that has a positive impact rather than a destructive one. And we’re proud to be part of the large Seattle contingent raising its voice for people, animals and the and planet—and against dated and dangerous technologies.
Keep the heat on:
The sun-powered People’s Platform continues to screen films, host live interviews, and project messages! Starting each night at dusk on Alki Beach, weather permitting. For more: https://mosquitofleet.us/
Help Earthjustice reach its goal of 50,000 messages again Arctic drilling! Sign here.