The black dot in the red circle is a human. Photo by Christine Jun.
This morning, six women from Greenpeace started scaling the Shard. They figured that climbing the tallest building in western Europe would bring some publicity to their anti-Arctic oil drilling campaign. Which it has, because – as we learned from French renegade building climber Alain Robert – news outlets generally go wild when people who aren't supposed to be climbing stuff climb stuff.
The Greenpeace activists picked the Shard because it's in the middle of Shell's three London headquarters (Shell are the main company who want to drill for oil in the Arctic) and because its meant to look like a shard of ice – which I guess it does in that it's somewhat triangular and doesn't look like a gherkin. So far, the activists are about halfway up.
Weirdly, not everyone on Twitter is that supportive of the eco-protesters' actions. For example, @OrrisGraham suggested the authorities should “let the fucking snipers loose on them”, while @podgydad expressed concern that, if the women were up the Shard, “who is sorting childrens, husbands and boyfriends breakfasts?”
We thought we’d give Greenpeace a chance to respond to the tweets, so I called them up to see what was going on and then demand some answers for the people of Twitter. Greenpeace, who’s making your boyfriends’ breakfasts?
The six women before they climbed the Shard. (Photo courtesy of David Sandison/Greenpeace)
VICE: Hey Greenpeace. Why are six women climbing the Shard right now?
Greenpeace: We’ve been running a campaign called “Close the Arctic” for a year. It's to get a global sanctuary declared in the area around the North Pole, which would prevent companies from going in and drilling for oil and gas. Shell is at the forefront of the companies who want to do that, but they haven’t managed to yet, and we really wanted to subject them to some public scrutiny, which is what they fear most.
Why didn't you climb the Shell building that is just across the river instead?
The Shard is in the centre of Shell’s three London headquarters. If the women make it up to the top, they’re going to be unveiling a huge art installation that we hope will convey the beauty and fragility of the Arctic. We want Shell to look out their windows and see it, and for the public to ask questions about it.
What’s the installation?
I can’t tell you. It’s a surprise.
Fair enough. What’s the main reason for protesting against drilling in the Arctic?
The reason companies can go in there and drill now is that the ice around the North Pole is melting. Last year it reached its lowest levels ever. Basically, that happened from global warming caused by fossil fuels, so it’s just madness for companies to use that as a business opportunity to go and drill for more of the fossil fuels that caused the problems in the first place. The Arctic’s also one of the most pristine and fragile regions on the planet. There are many unique creatures living there and, if an oil spill happened in the region, it would be catastrophic and impossible to clean up in those kind of conditions, so far away from infrastructure.
(Photo courtesy of David Sandison/Greenpeace)
Is a spill the main worry?
The drilling is destructive, but an oil spill is quite likely. The vice chairman of Shell, Pete Slaiby – who’s in charge of oil drilling in Alaska – said, “There will be spills.” We already know that the amount of spills every 18 months in the Russian subarctic region – where there’s already drilling by other companies – is equivalent to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It’s a lot, and it’s unchecked. There’s an oil spill currently going on in the Komi region, in the subarctic. It’s been going on for several months, and it took a few months for the company responsible to acknowledge that it was their oil. It’s going all the way down a river, and people who live in that region have had to go out with their own boats, buckets and spades to clean it themselves.
What’s going to happen to the activists?
We hope they don’t get arrested, but there's quite a strong likelihood that they will.
Okay. Well, I have pulled some questions/observations from Twitter that I'd like to put to you if that's OK? It is? Cool.
"It’s a stereotype. It’s funny. We don’t get these kinds of stereotypes much any more. I think people have kind of moved on and understand what we’re about now."
"Well, we’re doing this because Shell, who want to go and destroy the Arctic with oil-drilling, are scared of public scrutiny, and this is a valuable way of making sure that a company like that is accountable. We do these kinds of protests alongside other things, like producing reports for investors about the actual dangers of oil drilling. But this is good because it attracts a lot of media and public attention."
"Oh, surely that’s a joke. Really? [Laughs]. Yeah, that’s pretty amazing. But I think the women who are doing this are remarkable. I hope they make it to the top. They’re all women with a lot of years of climbing experience who are really passionate about what they’re doing. And one of them, Victo, has written a really great blog on the Greenpeace website, explaining why they’re doing this. Maybe he should read that?"
"Um, I guess he’s just a troll… A pretty nasty one."
"I don’t understand what he means."
"I mean, it’s a stereotype. But yes, we are an environmental organisation – we do like trees."
"[Laughs] Um… I guess I’ll refer you to the women answer I gave before."
"We think that the police have overreacted somewhat with this. These are very highly trained women who are using every bit of safety equipment they can. Plus, window cleaners hang off that building every day without a need for emergency services below."
"Um, well, I guess this is to make a serious point and it’s part of a global campaign that over three million people have signed up to. So hopefully he’s not calling all of those people idiots."
"I mean, yes, it is a message to Shell to stop drilling for oil in the Arctic. The Shard was designed to look like a shard of ice that would tower over London. It shadows the three London headquarters of the multinational oil company, Shell, who want to drill in the Arctic. We’re doing this today to make them face public scrutiny and to bring together the voices of the three million people around the world who’ve signed up to our campaign to make the area around the North Pole a global sanctuary that can’t be exploited for oil drilling."
"Yeah, it’s not anything to do with the building at all. It’s what it symbolises and its location."
"Well, a) that’s the kind of language that suggests he’s a troll. But b) basically, as I said before, window cleaners hang off that building day after day without the need for emergency support."
Okay, thanks Greenpeace.
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