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Why I Risked My Life to Stop Arctic Drilling

How far would you go for something you believed in?

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They are going to go out there again.

The Water Cannon

This is far worse than the hoses.

Basil holds up the shield as the water from the cannon pounds down on him. With the wind hitting his body, too, it all feels like a hurricane.

Him and another activist on the boat, Georgia Hirsty, occasionally shout to each other, but much of it is inaudible amidst the hammering stream.

Basil closes his eyes. He then remembers his video camera and picks it up to capture the madness.

An hour later, Basil is still in the boat, holding up his shield against the relentless water. He’s soaked, and freezing, and tired.

Greenpeace has been working for Arctic protection for decades so that it wouldn’t have to come to this. All the petitions they sent, to all the various government departments in various countries. All of the 2 million signatures they gathered. All to save the Arctic. All receiving no response. 

No one is actually hearing all that.

Basil buckles down, prepared to fight back against the icy blast.

About two hours later, the water pressure suddenly gets higher, and then, whoever is handling the water cannon shifts it to directly hit their boat. The boat begins filling up with water. And before long Basil and Georgia find themselves ejected from the boat.  

After the support vessel quickly picks up the activists and hooks up their boat to tow, Basil learns that all the workers on the Anna Akhmatova, the huge passenger vessel he was chained to, were not able to get to work on the Prirazlomnaya that day. By the time Basil’s boat swamped, there was only one hour left to their workday. And so, with that, and with Greenpeace’s continued presence in the water, the workers didn’t bother going.

We stopped business as usual.

The Future

Both Gazprom and Shell recently announced that they will halt their oil drilling plans in the Arctic for this year — a huge victory for Greenpeace, the activists and more importantly, the environment. There’s still much more work to be done to protect the Arctic. The Arctic Sunrise is still in the Arctic Ocean, with independent scientists on board who are studying and documenting sea ice as it declines and reaches its lowest levels in history. Greenpeace also continues its Save the Arctic campaign, pushing for a ban to oil drilling, industrial fishing and military buildup in the Arctic by declaring it a global sanctuary.  

Basil believes that his actions brought awareness to possible drilling in the Arctic. He thinks that when it comes to the environment and the way we live life, more and more people will begin to talk about the state of society, and then ultimately take action, perhaps even putting their own bodies on the line as activists around the world are doing.

It appears that as our economic, political and social structures grow ever more powerful, true change seems harder and harder to create via the traditional fashion of organizing or protesting. And so, from locking themselves to equipment to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline construction to getting arrested in waves while demanding an end to corporate money in politics, people are risking their livelihoods and their lives to fight for a better world. For it seems, the only thing they have to lose is… well, everything.

And it looks as if people will rise up to do the right thing — whether or not they think the fight is winnable, whether or not they even still have hope.