Greenpeace activists at the beginning of their ascent up the Shard. (Photo courtesy of David Sandison/Greenpeace)
Six women from Greenpeace are currently climbing their way up the Shard – all 87 storeys of it – to protest against Shell drilling for oil in the Arctic. People on Twitter were pretty dismissive of their efforts, but people on Twitter are pretty dismissive of everything. So to seek out some balance, I headed over to the Shard to ask some bystanders if they agreed with the alpinist activists.
Melanie, 38, IT analyst: I’m all for demonstrating and doing what you want to do. They’ve got to do extreme things to get attention and get publicity. But they must be insane to go up there.
Would you ever do that to protest against drilling for oil? Or for any other cause?
I think there are lots of causes worth doing that for, but whether I would do it personally – I wouldn’t, no.
I’m not fond of heights. And there are lots more important problems in the world other than environmental issues, like poverty and the unfair distribution of wealth. Especially in the UK.
So will this change anything?
No, probably not. It will draw attention and increase awareness, but whether or not it will actually stop them drilling – I don’t think it will. There’s money to be made at the end of the day, so what do you expect? They’re going to keep going, aren’t they?
Kristina, 38, supervisor of the Shard’s restaurants: Everyone has the right to do what they want, so why not?
Do you think it will make a difference?
Of course not. Shell is too big a company, so the protesters won’t stop them.
Can you think of any negative consequences that might come out of this protest?
No, only positive.
What do you think about Greenpeace?
They're very important, because otherwise we’d all be living in rubbish.
Roger, 53, construction worker: They’re protesting something – I dunno what it is.
They’re against Shell drilling for Arctic oil. Do you agree with them?
I don’t think I agree with anyone climbing up that, no. It's dangerous. It could kill you.
Obviously they feel strongly enough about it to risk their lives. Do you think that makes them stupid or brave?
Uh, a bit of both.
Would you climb up there for a cause?
That sounds about right.
Allison, 45, care assistant: They’re brave, but there’s no way you'd get me up there. Absolutely no way.
Do you think it’ll work?
There’ll be a bit of publicity – a bit of news tonight – so obviously people are going to listen. If someone does something about it, that’s another thing, isn’t it? I don’t think we know the full story of what’s happening in the Arctic. I don’t think we would be told. There’s definitely more going on than we know about.
Julian, 50, actor, and Annie, 37, waitress.
Annie: I don’t know, really.
Julian: It's probably a good way of getting their point across.
Do you think it's going to make a difference?
Annie: I don’t know.
Julian: Of course not. Shell is too big a corporation, isn't it?
So you would personally never do anything like that for oil?
What do you think of Greenpeace in general?
Annie: Yeah, it gets a point of view across against Shell. It is a bit important to care about the environment, but it's not at the top of my list.
What’s more important?
Living. Earning money during the recession.
Are there any negative consequences to what these women are doing?
Heath, 57 (left) and Reg, 65, both retired.
Reg: Oh, they're nut cases.
Will it make any difference in the end?
No, because no one will take any notice of them anyway. People will just carry on. Politicians never take any notice of these people or anybody. They just go their own way and do what they want to do.
Would you ever protest for oil or another cause?
I wouldn’t protest for anything.
Because it's all a waste of time. Politicians aren't bothered. I’ve written several letters to MPs about the way that disabled people are being treated and the lack of benefits, and you just get a standard letter back.
What do you think about Greenpeace?
They’re an extreme organisation, but I sympathise with some of their ideas. I think, in today’s society, it's just an impossibility to do what Greenpeace wants to do. You’re talking about changing people’s lives completely. And that’s not an easy task. There’s too many people with vested interests and a lot of money. Money talks, doesn't it? And oil people like Shell are never going to change their minds, because they’ve got too much to lose.
Previously - Who Would You Hire to Run Your Life?