On May 1, recognized worldwide as May Day, a different type of collective action took place in Helsinki, Finland - a coordinated effort by Greenpeace activists to stop oil giant Shell from drilling in the arctic. The activists boarded and occupied a Shell-contracted icebreaker in Helsinki harbor as it was being readied to depart for the Alaskan Arctic.
The icebreaker, called Nordica, was one of two heading to the Arctic to join drilling vessels. It is intended to assist in the process of shattering obtrusive ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas later this summer, allowing for easier offshore drilling there.
Twenty activists from 30 different countries boarded Nordica, seizing control of the vehicle.
"We are calling on Shell to abandon its controversial plans to open up the fragile Arctic for oil drilling," Greenpeace declared in a statement.
Finland Greenpeace campaign manager Tapio Laakso added, "We are here on behalf of the nearly 400,000 people around the world who, in just a couple of months, have spoken out demanding that Shell cancel its reckless campaign of Arctic destruction."
Some of the people to whom he referred had previously signed a petition on Greenpeace's website that appealed to Shell to withdraw from oil exploration in the sensitive Chukchi/Beaufort environments.
"Oil companies know full well that an oil spill off the Alaskan coast would devastate the environment and prove impossible to clean up," Laakso remarked.
Shell currently plans to begin the drilling around July 10 and continue until Autumn. The Obama administration had approved such plans on Feb. 17, with a requirement by the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement requiring that Shell also prepare for a 'worst-case scenario' - including planning for harsh weather conditions, and develop special equipment and strategies that would serve as a response to a potential spill.
But Greenpeace, its supporters, and many environmental activists are outraged that Shell was granted permission to tamper with this sensitive ecosystem in the first place.
"For the first time in our history," said Greenpeace, "we are faced with the possibility of a world without ice at the North Pole; without a home for polar bears, narwhals, and walruses. It is fundamentally wrong that Shell is making money drilling for more of the oil that has caused this melting in the first place."
Photo: Greenpeace activists occupy Nordica and send a clear message. Greenpeace (Save the Arctic campaign)