VICE spent last night with campaigners from the environmental campaign group Greenpeace as they pulled off their latest stunt in central London.
After months of lobbying to keep the oil and gas company Shell from drilling in the Arctic, having intercepted ships and dangled themselves off bridges, campaigners today transported a polar bear puppet the size of a double-decker bus to Shell's offices on the South Bank. They intend for the bear—named "Aurora"—to remain fixed there until Shell's Arctic drilling window ends later this month. Six protesters are inside the puppet, locked to it in a way they hope will prevent it being removed.
Last month, President Obama granted the final permits needed for Shell to get going with their plans for Arctic oil drilling, allowing them to bore into hydrocarbon layers in the sea bed. They have just weeks left to strike oil, with their window to find the liquid closing on September 28. There are billions of dollars on the line; the company has already spent a reported $6 billion on Arctic oil exploration, and is preparing to sink a further $1 billion into it this year.
Shell says drilling for oil in the Arctic is "essential to securing energy supplies for the future" but at 6 AM this morning, 60 or so Greenpeace activists attempted to remind the company that they're not going away. Earlier this year, researchers concluded that Arctic drilling is incompatible with the goal of limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
"Arctic drilling is a threat to the Arctic and a threat to millions of people living on the frontline of climate change," argues Greenpeace Arctic campaigner Elena Polisano. "Shell is ignoring all this in blind pursuit of profit. Shell says we don't want to have a debate with them about the world's energy needs, but we've asked them several times to meet and they've refused."
The Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, pictured above, also joined the protest, helping the activists lock on to the bear. She will also be making a speech to the press.
"Last year I went to the Arctic and saw the melting of that place for myself," Thompson told VICE this morning. "It lit a torch inside me that won't go out until we protect it in the same way as the Antarctic is at the moment. It made it clear that drilling for oil there would be a suicidal move.
"That's why I've come to their HQ," she continued. "I'm here to say 'no'. I'm here to say 'this has to end.' I'm one of millions of people demanding that this company pulls out of the Arctic."
The six activists who've locked themselves to the polar bear structure say they won't be leaving until Shell promises to halt their drilling activities, or they're dragged out by the cops. Barry Broadly, 48, is one of those inside: "Once we're in place we have to give Shell the feeling that we'll be there for the duration, we have to show our commitment. We'll be staying until the drilling stops, so the ball is in their court. It's your move now, Shell."
VICE has been granted firsthand access to the action, with journalists embedded on the team overnight at their base camp outside the city. We'll be watching as Shell reacts to the action, and the activists locked inside deal with the pressures of the protest and negotiate with police.